The entire world is very happy that Alan Johnston the BBC reporter has been freed, no one should be held against their will under those circumstances. But gee whiz you release one news guy and BOOM you are a bunch of nice guys. At least thats what Hamas is claiming. Next thing you know Moshe Katsav is going too run for Prime Minister as a womens rights candidate or Ehud Olmert as a law and order candidate. I find it incredible that Hamas can make that claim, first of all why did they wait three and a half month to make an effort to have him released. Then there is the matter of Corporal Shalit who they still hold. Even after Hamas completed its takeover of the Gaza Strip, sporadic rocket fire at the western Negev settlements continued. During the past two weeks 61 rockets hits were identified for a total of 120 in June, as compared with 299 in May, 2007. The attacks slightly wounded a number of civilians, and several more were found to be suffering from shock; property was also damaged. Doesn’t sound like good guys.
Hamas Tries To Use Briton’s Release To Claim Legitimacy BY BENNY AVNI – Staff Reporter of the Sun TEL AVIV — Palestinian Arab, British, and Israeli officials all cast doubt on the image of benevolence and strength that Hamas leaders sought to present in orchestrating the release of a British Broadcasting Corp. reporter, Alan Johnston, freed in Gaza yesterday after four months in captivity. Mr. Johnston’s emergence next to a former Palestinian Authority prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, capped a 114-day worldwide campaign to free him. Mr. Haniyeh told reporters that since Hamas has proved its ability to lean on a renegade Gaza clan to gain freedom for the British reporter, it could also help facilitate there lease of an Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped in Gaza over a year ago. By releasing Mr. Johnston and dangling the release of Corporal Shalit, according to various Israeli and international officials here, Hamas expects to gain recognition and the end of a diplomatic and economic boycott that the United Nations, the European Union, America, and Israel have imposed since Hamas fighters took over Gaza by force. “Hamas wants to show that it can deliver the goods, saying, ‘Talk to me,'” a former Israel Defense Force chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, told a conference at the Jerusalem Shalem Center yesterday. “This poses a tough dilemma for Israel and the West,” Mr. Yaalon added, pointing out that negotiations with Hamas, by definition, would effectively end the isolation policy that Israel and its Western allies have imposed. “This is exactly what Hamas wanted to achieve. It will soon force Israel to make decisions,” he said. With longer hair than the shaved-headed figure familiar from his BBC broadcasts and the numerous campaigns for his release, Mr. Johnston, 45, emerged in Gaza just before dawn yesterday surrounded by armed men. He was hustled to a television studio, where Mr. Haniyeh draped a Palestinian Arab flag over the BBC newsman and urged reporters to applaud. Hamas had made a “big effort” in recent months to free Mr. Johnston, Mr. Haniyeh said, adding that, with the release, he hoped that Israel would now create the necessary conditions to allow Hamas to work toward the release of Corporal Shalit as well. Israel “shares in the joy” of Mr. Johnston’s “family and that of the entire British people,” Prime Minister Olmert said in a statement, adding his government demanded that Corporal Shalit “also be released by his kidnappers, who belong to Hamas.” Hamas spokesmen, however, have said Corporal Shalit’s kidnapping was the work of Gaza’s Dogmoush clan, described in Israel and in Gaza as a crime family that has collaborated with outside forces in return for cash and weapons. As Gaza became increasingly lawless and violent, the clan has reportedly fought on behalf of Hamas, Fatah, Iran, and, most recently, created a Qaeda-affiliated group known as the Army of Islam, which has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings of Corporal Shalit, Mr. Johnston, and numerous other foreigners and locals. According to Israeli press reports, Mr. Johnston’s release be came possible after more than 6,000 armed men from Hamas surrounded the Dogmoush compound in Gaza. But a man who presented himself as a top Army of Islam leader, Abu Mouthana, said the “heroes” under his command handed Mr. Johnston to Hamas of their own free will. “Our message to Hamas is: Stop this farce,” the man, whose face was covered by a traditional headdress, told Israel’s Channel 10 TV. He added that his group, which counts many men donning explosive belts, had handed Corporal Shalit over to Hamas a while ago. “We’re watching a movie where the thieves in Gaza fall out. One of them claims to be honest and brave, and another is the bad guy,” an aide to President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said. Since its top commanders fled Gaza, Fatah has tried to consolidate its hold over the West Bank, while cooperating with the West in isolating Hamas-led Islamist factions in Gaza. Hamas “is trying to gain sympathy for creating a Taliban principality in Gaza,” Mr. Abed Rabbo, who once served as Yasser Arafat’s spokesman, said in Ramallah. In Damascus, a Hamas political leader, Mousa Abu Marzuk, told the Associated Press that yesterday’s release of Mr. Johnson was a “message to the world that Hamas is a responsible group,” which “makes a comparison between the killings and kidnapping that are happening in the West Bank.” The official response by the British government, however, did not indicate any intention to change its policy, which sees Mr. Abbas as a legitimate leader and defines Hamas as a terrorist organization. “Hostage-taking is an abhorrent crime,” British Foreign Minister David Miliband said in a statement. “I hope that the overwhelming support shown for Alan in the last four months has shown that all decent people believe that taking hostages can never be a legitimate means to achieve any ends.”