Prominent Dahlan aide returns to Gaza

Rashid Abu-Shbak (Adel Hana - AP)

Middle East Monitor  /  March 16, 2021

Rashid Abu-Shbak, one of the most prominent aides of dismissed Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan, returned to the Gaza Strip after 14 years in exile, Palestinian media reported.

In a statement, senior leader in Dahlan’s Democratic Reform Current, Salah Abu-Khatla, said Abu-Shbak’s return to Gaza through the Rafah Crossing, adding that his return “is an important step towards the achievement of national unity and ending the internal division.”

Abu-Shbak returned to Gaza following the return of hundreds of Fatah members and leaders loyal to Dahlan who fled the Strip in 2007 after failing to remove Hamas from power. Hamas had won the Palestinian elections months earlier.

Dahlan’s activities and supporters are still banned in the West Bank, which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority led by Fatah.

“These activists and leaders returned to Gaza in order to take part in the preparations for the parliamentary elections,” Abu-Khatla said.

When he was in Gaza, Abu-Shbak was the chief of the Internal Security Forces, which along with the presidential security apparatus and Fatah Executive Forces, worked to oust Hamas.

He was sacked from his position following a West Bank court ruling. He was dismissed by Fatah as a result of his relations with Dahlan.

Fifty-seven-year-old Dahlan was expelled from Fatah’s ruling body in 2011 on allegations of plotting to overthrow Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and has been living in exile in the UAE since 2012.

He was the former head of the Fatah-dominated Preventive Security Force in the Gaza Strip.

In December 2019, Turkey added Dahlan to its most wanted terrorist list, with a $1.7 million bounty on his head, due to his alleged involvement in perpetrating the attempted military coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government on 15 July 2016, in cooperation with followers of the exiled Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who remains in the US.