Palestinian Authority media reported this week that senior Fatah terrorist Abu Maher Ghneim has been allowed to return to Judea and Samaria. Ghneim was barred entrance to the region in the 1960s due to his terrorist activities, and has since lived in Tunisia.
Ghneim was a close associate of former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat. The two worked together to found the Fatah terrorist group and later the PLO, and fought together as terrorists in the 1960s.
Ghneim returned to Judea and Samaria this week for the upcoming meeting of Fatah leaders. Sources within the PA say Ghneim intends to remain in the area, and will set up an office.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas may have played a part in allowing Ghneim's return. The move could serve to boost Abbas, who faces challenges not only from rival group Hamas, but from within Fatah as well. In July, senior Fatah official Farouq Kaddoumi accused Abbas of playing a part in a plot to kill Arafat.
Ghneim has sided with Abbas against Kaddoumi in the dispute, according to PA media.
Previously, Ghneim has been mentioned as one of the possible candidates to replace Abbas when the latter steps down as PA chairman. Another top candidate is Salam Fayyad, who, unlike current and previous senior PA leaders, is not a member of Fatah.
Israeli officials have yet to publicly confirm rumors of Ghneim's return.
Second Arafat Aide Goes to Jail
While Ghneim was allegedly granted a pardon, a second former Arafat associate was convicted Wednesday of terrorism-related crimes. Senior Fatah member Fuad Shubaki was found guilty of funding terrorist attacks and the transfer of weapons to Fatah's Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades terrorist faction.
Shubaki was convicted of coordinating the purchase of 50 tons of weapons, including hundreds of rockets, grenades, and anti-tank mines, which were to be smuggled to Gaza on the Karine A ship. Israeli commandos intercepted the ship in 2002.
Shubaki said in his defense that he was acting on Arafat's orders. He has not yet been sentenced.