Monday, April 23, 2007

Alan Johnston of the BBC

Discussions on the original demands by the Johnston kidnappers appear to have ceased. Those discussions are alleged to have centred on the attempt to hand over the killers of the kidnapper's brother (see earlier note on this subject). It would appear that intermediaries are now focussing on promoting the payment of money as what is described as a 'face saving' alternative. If ransom is indeed successful in the Johnston case it will set a precedent that may make travel by journalists in Gaza considerably more dangerous in future. The Palestinian people need representation in the press. Journalists need to be able to travel without hindrance. An alliance is urgently needed between the main power groups in Gaza including Hamas; Fatah; Islamic Jihad; the Islamic Army and the PFLP, under the terms of which there should be a permanent ban on kidnapping and those conducting this kind of action in future would be dealt with severely.

The group calling itself the Brigades of Tawhid and Jihad (Unification and Struggle) that allegedly sent a fax claiming to have 'executed' missing BBC correspondent Alan Johnston are not represented as a significant force in Gaza. They are Salafi-influenced Sinai Bedouin who have been looking for a foothold in Gaza for a while: Hamas have an uneasy relationship with them; they've co-operated over tunnel smuggling but obviously Hamas are not keen on having them try to outflank them from the right in Gaza. NCF member Zaki Chihab launched a new edition of his book 'Inside Hamas' this week in which he explains something of this group.

The NCF still intends to continue to mount its forthcoming delegation to Gaza.

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