The Fate of Two Fox News Hostages Seized in Gaza Linked to Israeli Soldier Gilead Shalit

The picture appearing with this article depicts a Gazan Palestinian warlord called Zakaria Dughmush.

It was he who led the kidnap gang which seized the two Fox News journalists, Steve Centanni, 60, and Olaf Wiig, 36, in Gaza on August 14 and has held them since.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources further reveal exclusively that Dughmush captured the two journalists at the behest of the Hamas cell which kidnapped the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit on June 25 from his army post outside the Gaza Strip.

Although the fates of the American, the New Zealander and the Israeli are now intertwined, they are not being held together.

The journalists are believed to be hidden in Gaza City by Dughmush’s men, while Gilead Shalit is in the hands of his Hamas kidnappers in Rafah or Khan Younes in the south.

We can identify Dughmush as 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, from a base in Gaza City. When he looked around for a sponsor, he was adopted by Hamas. But he also draws funds and weapons from al Qaeda and Hizballah elements which work together in the Gaza Strip.

Our counter-terror sources reveal that Dughmush was handed a contract to kidnap one or more Americans by the abductors of the Israeli soldier when their efforts to negotiate a prisoner swap hit a blank wall.

This was after a deal was broached, whereby Shalit was to have been freed for a promise by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, which had been delivered to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, to release 600 Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas stipulated that the trade must be simultaneous.

Later, they withdrew from the talks. In recent weeks, the Hamas group came under heavy pressure 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.

Rather than giving in, the abductors decided to turn the heat aside by engineering more sensational abductions.

They commissioned Dughmush and his gang to act for them.

Because neither set of abductors wants Palestinians branded as kidnappers of Americans, they invented a group no one had heard of, calling it the Brigades of the Holy Jihad, and released a communique and videotape Wednesday, August 23, demanding the release within 72 hours of Muslim prisoners in American jails.

Nothing was said about the fate of the captives if the deadline was not met.

With three hostages in hand, the Palestinian terrorists can be expected to raise the stakes for their freedom. They will most likely demand the release of a large number of Palestinians held in Israel and possibly the United States as well.

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