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2 Fatah-affiliated lawmakers who fled Gaza in 2007 return

Jan. 21, 2014 3:42 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 21, 2014 7:09 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Two Fatah-affiliated lawmakers who fled the Gaza Strip in 2007 returned to the coastal enclave on Tuesday in a sign of warming relations between the two main Palestinian factions.

Hundreds of Fatah supporters gathered near Erez crossing to welcome Majid Abu Shammalah and Alaa Yaghi, two elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council representing the Fatah movement.

The lawmakers crossed the border escorted by senior Fatah official Sufyan Abu Zaydah, and it was the first time that they had returned to the Gaza Strip since clashes between Fatah and Hamas across Palestine drove them out in 2007.

Since 2007, the two have been living in Ramallah in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank.

Their return to Gaza is part of a series of good will gestures by Hamas-run Gaza Strip government premier Ismail Haniyeh to enhance reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, which leads the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas deputy foreign minister Ghazi Hamad was at the reception near Erez crossing along with Fatah lawmaker Ashraf Jumaa.

Over the last month, Hamas and Fatah officials have made a number of moves hinting towards a potential reconciliation in the wake of the humanitarian emergency faced by the Gaza government following December's historic winter storm.

The two main rival Palestinian parties have been on cold terms since 2006, when Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections.

In the following year, clashes erupted between Fatah and Hamas, leaving Hamas in control of the Strip and Fatah in control of parts of the occupied West Bank.

The groups have made failed attempts at national reconciliation for years, most recently in 2012, when they signed two agreements -- one in Cairo and a subsequent one in Doha -- which have as of yet been entirely unimplemented.
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