Hamas demands release of Johnston

Issues ultimatum to kidnappers saying BBC reporter must be freed within 24 hrs.

June 16, 2007 23:19
1 minute read.
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Hamas on Saturday issued a warning to all powerful clans in the Gaza Strip to hand over their weapons or else they would be disarmed by force. Hamas also issued an ultimatum to Mumtaz Dughmush, the head of the notorious Dughmush clan, to release kidnapped BBC correspondent Alan Johnston within the next 24 hours. Johnston, who was kidnapped about three months ago in Gaza City, is said to be held by members of the Dughmush clan who are demanding money and jobs in the Palestinian Authority. On Saturday, hundreds of Hamas militiamen attacked members of the pro-Fatah Astal clan in Khan Yunis. The clan had rejected an ultimatum by Hamas to surrender its weapons. At least two people were killed in the fighting. Four other clans in the southern Gaza Strip, Abu Taha, Masri, Abu Amra and Barbakh, were told that they must hand over all their weapons by Sunday morning. The clans have long been known for their involvement in the smuggling of weapons and drugs from Egypt. Sources in the Gaza Strip said Hamas militiamen began rounding up scores of men suspected of involvement in drug trafficking and other criminal activities over the weekend. Most of the suspects were caught as they tried to flee to Israel through the Erez checkpoint and Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, the sources told The Jerusalem Post. Deposed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh appointed a council of security officers to impose law and order in the Gaza Strip. The council is headed by Tawfik Jaber, a former Palestinian Authority security officer, who will report directly to Haniyeh. Hamas also decided to ban Palestinian gunmen from covering their faces with masks as part of its plan to restore law and order and prevent gangsters from roaming the streets. Bayan Abu Nar, a top commander of Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin Kassam, announced that his movement was determined to confiscate the weapons of all the large clans in the Gaza Strip. "Hamas will impose law and order in the Gaza Strip," he said. "Our people have long been suffering as a result of the crimes that were committed by the murderous Fatah gangs. These gangs are now gone for ever and they will never terrorize our people again."

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