CAIRO: The release of BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston early yesterday morning, is an attempt by Hamas to mend fences with the West, Mohamed El Sayid Saeed, Deputy Director of Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told The Daily Star Egypt.
Johnston, who was held in captivity for 114 days, told BBC reporters he was never tortured but fell ill from food he was given during captivity.
“It became quite hard to imagine a normal life, Johnston said of his experience which he also described as “occasionally quite terrifying.
After being escorted by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip’s Sabra neighborhood, presumably where he was held captive, Johnston was taken to the home of former Palestinian Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniya for a press conference.
Also present was former Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, who said that no deal was made with the “Army of Islam, the group responsible for Johnston’s abduction. At the press conference Haniya was keen to point out that the release “confirms that Hamas is serious in imposing security and maintaining law and order in Gaza.
Presently at the British Consulate in Jerusalem, Johnston himself said that his captors seemed less at ease when they learned of Hamas’ security takeover in mid-June. Disinterested in the conflict with Israel, Johnston’s kidnappers were motivated by a desire to target Britain as part of a global holy war.
“It is my understanding that the Hamas people were angry about Johnston’s abduction from the very beginning and they blamed it on the corrupt elements within the Fatah security apparatus, said Saeed.
According to Saeed, the abduction could have been silently endorsed by some Fatah elements who want to “discredit Hamas’ ability to take a firm hold on security in the Gaza Strip. Despite Hamas claims that no bargaining was made with the “Army of Islam group that is dominated by the powerful Dogmush family, Saeed asserts that political bargaining definitely played a role in Johnston’s release.
“Hamas has kidnapped a very important Army of Islam cadre and an exchange was made. This was the only way to avoid the danger of an all out assault with radical Islamists who have no problems with losing their lives, Saeed said.
He foresees an imminent confrontation between Hamas, The Army of Islam, and the Dogmush family that dominates it.
“Despite a promise by Hamas that it would not launch an attack on the Army of Islam, I think it is a matter of time before they decimate the group, especially after Hamas completed the tough part of the political equation by getting rid of Fatah, Saeed said.
He believes that the June 24 video which showed Johnston wearing an explosive vest prompted Hamas’ move to detain Army of Islam members, because it further exacerbated the danger of an all out assault operation to ensure Johnston’s release.