debkafile Exclusive: Palestinian kidnappers link BBC correspondent’s case with abducted Israeli soldier to boost ransom

Ten days ago, BBC correspondent Alan Johnston was seized by armed men in Gaza (March 12), nine months after Hamas-led Palestinian raiders snatched Israeli corporal Gilead Shalit.
Our counter-terror sources disclose that Montaz Durmush, leader of the Army of Islam (Al Qaeda-Palestine), which is holding both hostages, is using the British journalist as a tool to drive up the price demanded of Israel for Shalit’s freedom.
Neither has been seen since their abduction. Durmush is posting threatening notices to the UK government about Johnston’s fate through a third party, to make the British lean on Israel to extort an exorbitant price for the two men’s release.
A team of 20 British agents, most of them from the MI6 secret service, is working in Gaza to make contact with the abductors, or just to obtain a sign of life from Johnston – so far without success. It is beginning to dawn on the group that the BBC reporter’s seizure was not just another short-lived kidnapping of a Westerner like the ones plaguing Gaza and the West Bank in recent months, but a drawn-out affair with no knowing how it will turn out.
March 20, a longwinded statement was released in the name of a faction called the “Popular Resistance Front” with details about the Shalit kidnapping. The wording implies that the three groups holding Shalit, Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Army of Islam, are vying over which can squeeze better terms from Israel.
British and Israeli intelligence circles believe both hostages are caught up in factional rivalries in Gaza over who will dominate the Palestinian unity government. Neither Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas nor prime minister Ismail Haniyeh was in any position to deliver on their promises to work for Shalit’s early release. They never were, since they have no influence with the kidnappers and are not in touch with them.
All the British foreign secretary Margaret Beckett could tell parliament Tuesday was that the government was doing all it could to effect the release of Alan Johnston and hope Gilead Shalit too would soon be free. However, for now, prospects of progress on the now interwoven hostage affairs are dim.

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