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Palestinians arrested in Egypt in 2015 sent home to Gaza

Members of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement are greeted by supporters and the group's leader Ismail Haniya in the Gaza Strip on February 28, 2019 after their return home from Egypt where they were held since 2015
AFP
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Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Four members of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas held in Egypt since August 2015 arrived home in the Gaza Strip Thursday where they were welcomed by Hamas leader Ismail Haniya.

The four arrived at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza where they greeted by dozens of well wishers before being driven to Haniyeh's office, AFP journalists said.

They had disappeared in August 2015 under mysterious circumstances as they travelled through the Sinai region on a bus from Hamas-ruled Gaza to Cairo en route to Turkey.

Other passengers said that the vehicle was stopped by unidentified gunmen who seized the Hamas men.

At the time Islamic State group jihadists were active in the lawless North Sinai.

IS had threatened Hamas after it arrested jihadist militants suspected of targeting its armed wing with a series of bombings.

Haniyeh did not say Thursday who had been holding the four Gazans but expressed his "deep gratitude to the Egyptian authorities for this decision".

Relations between Hamas and Egypt deteriorated since the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, had been sympathetic to Hamas.

His overthrow unleashed a deadly crackdown on Islamist protesters, and an insurgency based in Sinai.

In a separate development Hamas security forces have arrested the leader of a political group with links to Iran, a security official told AFP on Thursday.

"Hamas security forces in Gaza arrested on Tuesday evening the leader of the Al-Sbarine movement, Hisham Salem, and three other members of the movement," the official said on condition of anonymity.

A source in the Hamas security forces told AFP that Salem, a former Islamic Jihad member, was arrested for "security and passing information to hostile parties," adding that the arrest were unconnected to Hamas relations with Iran.

The security forces say that Al-Sbarine has "a few dozen members".

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