Hamas accused of staging British journalist's release

Wednesday, July 04, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

A senior member of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' government on Wednesday accused Hamas of staging the release of an abducted British journalist in order to gain approval for its military takeover of the Gaza Strip.

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston was set free earlier in the day amid much fanfare after spending some four months in captivity. Hamas officials said their efforts to reach a compromise with the breakaway terror group Army of Islam had led to Johnston's release, and held up the purported achievement as justification for their bloody coup against Abbas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority security forces last month.

Senior Abbas aide Yasser Abd Rabbo said he, for one, was not buying it.

“We're watching a movie, where the thieves in Gaza fall out and one of them claims to be honest and brave, and the other is the bad guy. This Hamas game fools no one,” Rabbo told reporters from Ramallah.

Immediately following the reporter's release, Damascus-based overall Hamas leader Khaled Mashal said in an interview with Reuters that only Hamas could have “produced the freedom of Alan Johnston,” who Abbas and the forces loyal to him had failed to protect and rescue.

Johnston parroted the assertions of his self-styled saviors at a press conference in Gaza shortly before being taken to the British consulate in Jerusalem.

“If it hadn't been for that real serious Hamas pressure, that committment to tidying up Gaza's many, many security problems, then I might have been in [captivity] for a lot longer,” said the relieved British national.

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