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How Hamas Engineered Journalist's Release

Interesting details are appearing on the BBC web site about how Hamas engineered Alan Johnston's release.

He (a senior BBC journalist in Gaza) talked about the night before Alan Johnston was released from his captors, a group calling itself the Army of Islam sponsored by the Dugmush family, one of Gaza's armed clans.

The evening before Alan was freed, everyone thought it would be a bloody night in the area the Dugmush control.

"Hundreds of Hamas fighters were moving closer, through the alleys around there. The Dugmush family could feel the pressure.

"The Hamas people were very serious, very tough. They told the family that the kidnap was going to end whatever happened, and that this was their last chance to finish it by talking.

"The Hamas condition was always: 'You release Alan, and we'll talk about anything.' Even after they did the deal, the time before they could get Alan out - a couple of hours - was very tense, very critical and heavy. Every moment was a lifetime."

The mood and climate in Gaza have changed significantly.

"Today Gaza really feels different. It was so tense before Alan was released that I thought the rocks were dancing.

"Now, you could feel the relief of all the Palestinians. It's as if we're at a crossroads - 99.9% of Palestinians felt shame about what happened to Alan, so today we're happy.

"We hope no-one is going to dare to try any more kidnaps, because they know what they'd face.

"It's not like those simple days when they could kidnap someone and settle it by getting a salary or some bullets from the Palestinian Authority."

These are hopeful signs coming out of Gaza. Hamas' ability to secure Johnston's safe release solidifies its credibility as the unquestioned authority in the Gaza Strip. They've demonstrated that they are in charge and that they can enforce a degree of law and order. This demonstrates a striking contrast to Fatah's total inability to control Gaza's myriad armed militias and terrorist organizations. It will be interesting to see how far Hamas goes and whether they can curtail the activity of groups like the shadowy Islamic Jihad. Hamas clearly has an eye on gaining international recognition and acceptance, and they recognize that they will be judged on how well Gaza is run.

The current situation with Hamas is reminiscent of the long struggle between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the United Kingdom over the fate of Northern Ireland. The British had the foresight to begin negotiations with the IRA even though they engaged in repeated terrorist atrocities in the UK and Northern Ireland. They stuck with diplomacy and after a long, difficult road the IRA laid down its arms and ended their terrorist activities. The IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, then joined the electoral process in Northern Ireland.

I believe the same can eventually happen with Hamas. It won't be easy but it doesn't cost us anything to try and engage with them. Hamas is unlikely to disappear or be defeated military by either Fatah or the Israelis. They have widespread support among the Palestinian people, control the Palestinian Parliament, and will once again retake control of the cabinet once Abbas' emergency cabinet expires.

At the very least, by negotiating with Hamas we might be able to secure a working agreement to halt the sporadic rocket fire into Israel that periodically claims the lives of innocent Israelis. Isn't it worth putting forth the effort to try and stop that? Of course it is.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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