BBC correspondent released after siege imposed in Gaza


Gaza : BBC correspondent Alan Johnston was released early Wednesday by members of the Army of Islam in Gaza, after more than three months of captivity.

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Johnston's release came after strict measures taken by the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, as it imposed a siege on the Al-Sabra area, south Gaza city, where Johnston was imprisoned.

The executive force formed by Hamas announced in a statement to the press: "The British journalist Alan Johnston was released this morning, after being held captive by members of the 'Daghmash' family for four months."

The statement said that "the release of Johnston came after the executive authority surrounded the area, and he was handed over and transferred to the home of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya."

"The executive authority had pledged to secure the release of Johnston yesterday (Tuesday) after running out of all negotiation options with the kidnappers."

The British journalist was accompanied by several members of the Hamas leadership after his release, where he seemed very tired.

During a joint press conference with Johnston, Haniya said: "The Palestinian government put great efforts towards his release." The official also expressed hope that the issue of the Israeli soldier imprisoned in Gaza would also end.

"We are very happy for Johnston's release," he stressed. "Our keenness for his release was based on humanitarian, national and legislative beliefs as Johnston was playing an honourable role towards the Palestinian cause."

Haniya affirmed that his government strongly believes in restoring stability and security in the West Bank, Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and all Palestinian Territories.

Meanwhile, Johnston was quoted commenting on his ordeal and saying: "The last 16 weeks have been the very worst of my life."

He added: "I was in the hands of people who were dangerous and unpredictable … I literally dreamt many times of being free and always woke up back in that room."

Johnston said he was aware of efforts to free him through listening to the BBC World Service on the radio. The journalist said he was moved twice during his imprisonment.

Johnston has left for Israel, and he next moves on to Britain, after having breakfast with Haniya and leaders of Hamas.

The Palestinian press body expressed solidarity with the BBC reporter throughout his imprisonment, as did journalists worldwide. Palesinian journalists also organised strikes and rallies to pressure the Palestinian authorities into more action to secure Johnston's release.