Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni was discovered dead in an abandoned house in
Gaza City on Friday morning.
Hamas announced on Saturday that its
security forces had arrested two men in connection with the kidnapping/
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The case is seen as one of the most serious challenges to Hamas
since it took full control over the Gaza Strip in the summer of
Arrigoni, who had been living in the Gaza Strip for three years, is
the first foreign national to be kidnapped and murdered under Hamas, which has
prided itself on its success in ending the state of anarchy and lawlessness that
prevailed when the Palestinian Authority ruled the Strip.
Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry said that efforts were under way to capture
other suspects in the case.
Hamas did not name the suspects, or say to
which group they belonged.
Sources in the Gaza Strip, however, said the
suspects were part of an al-Qaida cell called Tawheed wal-Jihad.
suspects apparently received instructions to murder the Italian man through the
Internet, the sources said.
Several Hamas and Fatah websites tried over
the weekend to hold Israel responsible, saying they did not rule out the
possibility that the murder was aimed at foiling a protest flotilla that is
expected to head to the Gaza Strip in the coming days.
kidnappers released a video on Thursday in which he appeared alive, but badly
beaten and bloodied.
The kidnappers demanded the release of the leader of
Tawheed wal-Jihad, Hisham Saidani, who was arrested by Hamas authorities in the
Gaza Strip last month.
The kidnappers threatened to execute Arrigoni if
their leader was not released by 5 p.m. on Friday.
A suspect arrested by
Hamas security forces a few hours after the abduction is believed to have led
investigators to the house where the Italian activist had been
The group that had originally claimed responsibility for the
murder of Arrigoni later backtracked and denied any link to the case.
of the leaders of the group, who asked not to be identified for security
reasons, told Palestinian journalists that he “strongly condemned the murder,
which does not reflect our group’s policy in any way or serve its
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh also condemned the murder
of Arrigoni, who was a member of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity
Haniyeh phoned Arrigoni’s mother on Saturday and told her that
his government would do its utmost to lay its hands on the perpetrators and
bring them to trial.
Haniyeh revealed that Arrigoni had been killed
before the expiration of the deadline set by his kidnappers, saying this proved
their only intention was to kill the activist.
“This crime does notexpress the values and morals of the Palestinians,” Haniyeh said. “Nor does it
express our people’s nobility, culture and shining history.”
Mahmoud Abbas also condemned the murder and ordered the PA prosecutor-general to
open an investigation.
Abbas’s legal adviser, Hassan al- Oury, said those
responsible would be charged with “high treason,” a crime punishable by death
according to PA laws.
Oury described the slain Italian activist as a
“staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause and one of the freedom fighters who
defended the liberty and independence of the Palestinian
Arrigoni was a Palestinian soldier who was killed on the
battlefield, the adviser said.
Residents of the small town near Milan
from which Arrigoni hailed expressed “dismay and sorrow” over his
Tattooed on his arms and with an eyebrow stud, Arrigoni came
from Bulciago, a quiet town of some 2,700 inhabitants about 35 km. north of
Milan. Egidia Arrigoni, the mother of the slain man, is mayor of
He had been in the Palestinian territories on and off for a
The 36-year-old, who often wore a black worker’s cap, identified
himself as one of a community who, unlike “governments complicit with the
Zionist Israeli government, are ready to devote their lives to come to embrace
their brothers in Gaza.”
Egidia Beretta, whom Arrigoni telephoned
regularly, said they had spoken a few days earlier.
“It was calm, we
talked about what he was up to, what was happening in our family. He was
planning his return,” she told Italian television.
Raffaella Purricelli said Bulciago residents had been very upset by news of the
abduction and killing, and a public meeting was planned for later on
“There is dismay and sorrow for Vittorio,” he told Reuters.
“Bulciago is a simple town, where solidarity toward the needy is very important.
We share what Vittorio used to say, ‘Stay human,’” he said.
a committed supporter of Palestinians and a strong critic of Israeli
“I remember that day as one of the happiest and most emotional of
my life,” he said in an interview posted on YouTube, in which he described
arriving in Gaza on a boat from the Free Gaza Movement.
He was among a
group of activists from Europe and the United States who reactivated the
pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement and had worked closely with
Gazan fishermen and farmers.
On Friday, his body was recovered in an
abandoned house in the Gaza Strip after his abduction by terrorists from the
jihadist Salafi group the day before.
“Yesterday when we received the
news, at the beginning we did not believe it. We thought it was just a joke, but
then we saw the video, we believed it,” said Silvia Todeschini, a fellow Italian
“They brought us to the body and we said yes, it was him.
Vittorio was here for the Palestinian people, and they killed somebody who was
here for them.”
Reuters contributed to this report.