DEBKA-Net-Weekly 267 Revealed: Palestinian warlord Zakaria Dughmush (picture) kidnapped the Fox News journalists on behalf of Hamas
The Hamas team which abducted Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit on June 25 sought to ease the pressure for his release by staging a more spectacular snatch. For this reason, they hired Zakaria Dughmush and his masked men to capture the two Fox News journalists in Gaza City on Aug. 14.
Although their fates are intertwined, the American Steve Centanni, 60, and New Zealander Olaf Wiig, 36, are not being held in the same place as Gilead Shalit. The Fox journalists are thought to be hidden in Gaza City by the gang which kidnapped him, while Shalit is in a Hamas team’s hands, either in Rafah or Khan Younes in the southern Gaza Strip.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly`s exclusive sources on Aug. 25 identified the kidnapper as Dughmush, a former follower of the late Jemal Semhadana, head of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees who was killed in Rafah by rockets fired from an Israeli warplane on June 8, 2006.
Semhadana was the first Palestinian terrorist to attack Americans. He staged the bombing attack of October 15, 2003 on a US embassy convoy from Tel Aviv as it drove past Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.
Three American security officers died in that attack.
After Semhadana’s death, his PRC fragmented into several small militias, one of them led by Dughmush, a rabid fundamentalist who set up base in Gaza City. He was adopted by Hamas, but also draws funds and weapons from al Qaeda and Hizballah elements working together in the Gaza Strip.
Our counter-terror sources reveal that Dughmush was handed the contract to kidnap one or more Americans by the abductors of the Israeli soldier when their efforts to negotiate a prisoner swap broke down. Hamas ended up refusing the quid pro quo of a promise by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, already deposited with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, to release 600 Palestinian prisoners. They held out for a simultaneous trade and then withdrew from the talks.
They turned to Dughmush when pressure built up to end the episode from many quarters, including the Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, the Egyptians and the head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas.
Because neither set of abductors wanted Palestinians branded as kidnappers of Americans, they invented a group no one had heard of, calling it the Brigades of the Holy Jihad. This phantom group released a communique and videotape Wednesday, August 23, demanding the release within 72 hours of Muslim prisoners in American jails. The deadline was up Saturday noon with no word from the abductors.
Nothing had been said about the fate of the captives if the deadline was not met.
With three hostages in hand, the Palestinian terrorists expect a higher price for their release, such as a large number of Palestinians held in Israel and possibly the United States as well.
debkafile adds: Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniya both know exactly who kidnapped Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig. They are embarrassed enough to go through the motions of protesting the abductions, but not enough to take real action to put a stop to the Hamas scheme of holding the two Fox journalists hostage to raise the ante for the Israeli soldier.