Agence France Presse (AFP)
November 25, 2008 - 8:00pm

A Gaza leader of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah faction returned home on Tuesday more than three months after fleeing to the West Bank following deadly clashes between his clan and the Islamist Hamas movement.

"I feel how any Palestinian feels on returning to his family and friends," Ahmed Hilles told reporters after entering the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Erez border crossing.

He refused to be drawn on whether there was any political significance to his return in terms of trying to heal the rift in Palestinian ranks triggered by the Hamas seizure of Gaza in June last year.

"We have no need of mediation efforts. Relations between all Palestinians must be brotherly," he said.

The Hamas authorities in Gaza said that Hilles's return followed an approach to them by a third party.

A spokesman for the Hamas interior ministry called on the returning Fatah leader "not to be led along by the statements of incitement emanating from Ramallah," the West Bank headquarters of the Palestinian president.

Hilles left the Gaza Strip along with dozens of his clansmen in early August after clashes with Hamas police killed a dozen of his clan and wounded dozens more.

Hamas accused the Hilles clan of being behind a July 25 bombing in Gaza City that killed five members of its military wing and a young girl.

The refugees fled first to Israel before moving on to the town of Jericho in the occupied West Bank.

Hilles himself suffered a bullet wound to the foot in the August clashes for which he received hospital treatment in Israel before being detained for questioning by the Israeli security services for seven weeks.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017