Monday, June 25, 2007

Shalit & Johnston boobytrapped in Gaza

Today marks one year since the young IDF corporal Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas gunmen in a cross-border raid. Israeli television reports quoted Hamas sources assurances that their captive is alive and healthy, held incommunicado in an underground chamber in Shaboura, a refugee camp near Gaza's southern border. Hamas sources said Shalit's two-room cell is dug into the bottom of a 15 meter shaft lined with explosives. His jailers access Shalit's hidey-hole by ladder and keep enough provisions there so that they can withstand a two week siege.

Meanwhile, a disturbing video of the BBC's Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston, trussed up in a suicide belt, was released online by his kidnappers today, as the latest deadline for the journalist's release expired. A little-known faction, called Jaish al-Islam [or Army of Islam], defied the Hamas ultimatum by showing this tape, in which Johnston understandably appears anxious.
"The situation now is very serious. As you can see I have been dressed in what is an explosive belt, which the kidnappers say will be detonated if there was any attempt to storm this area," he said.

Johnston is held hostage at a seaside tower block in Gaza City. Clerics said that his kidnappers must be scared of retribution by other factions if they release the BBC reporter. “We condemn the continued release of videos like this which can only add to the distress of Alan Johnston’s family and friends,” said a British Foreign Office spokeswoman. The BBC appealed again for Johnston's immediate release and posted this second video on its website. His abductors insist on swapping the Scotsman Johnston for Abu Qatada, a Palestinian-born Islamic cleric who is accused of links with al-Qaeda and currently is detained by Britain as a national security threat. Abu Qatada is expected to be deported soon.

This just in: Hamas has released an audio tape purported to be Shalit, and his father confirmed that the voice sounded like his son's. On the recording, the captive soldier says his health is deteriorating and berates the Israeli government for ignoring his plight and for not meeting the demands of Izz el-Din al-Qassam, the armed wing of Hamas. B'Tselem, an Israeli NGO, has demanded that Hamas allow the International Red Cross to visit the hostage, Shalit, and pointed out that his captivity flouts the Geneva conventions. Last year, when Shalit's parents attempted to send their son some new eyeglasses, Hamas balked, fearing an attempt to smuggle in spy specs replete with miniature gadgetry.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in a surprise announcement at the Middle East summit, announced the release of 250 Palestinian prisoners, as per demands of Shalit's kidnappers. Just to spite Hamas, all of them are Fatah loyalists.


pondering jewel said...

Shalit penned a letter to his parents back in September, but aside from that, until that tape on the internet today, there had been no concrete sign of life. The teenage tank gunner was grabbed by gunmen who tunneled under the border into Israel and held him in Gaza for a year. There are two other kidnapped soldiers in Lebanon of Hizbullah's provocations on 12 July 2006 (and they killed half a dozen troops, too.) This touched off the war last summer.

Red Bull said...

You'd think it would be in Hamas' interest, if they wanted to show that they're semi-respectable, to release Shalit. That way, the Israelis would have to deal with them!
Red Bull

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