Fatah leaders have been urging the captors of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston to hold on to him to avoid a situation where Hamas would take credit for his release, Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said Saturday. "Hamas is making a big effort to release the British journalist," Abu Zuhri told the Quds Press news agency. "But some Fatah leaders in Ramallah have been phoning the captors to ask them not to release him." He said Hamas had evidence that the Fatah leaders were trying to hinder Johnston's release. "They don't want Hamas to take credit for his release," he added. Although the Hamas spokesman did not name the Fatah leaders, sources close to Hamas claimed that top Fatah operative Muhammad Dahlan, who is currently living in Ramallah, was one of them.
Gaza clan chief holds on to Johnston
The sources pointed out that Mumtaz Dughmush, the head of the clan that is holding Johnston, was closely associated with Dahlan and other senior Fatah leaders.
Dozens of Hamas militiamen have been surrounding the neighborhood where members of the Dughmush clans live in Gaza City since last Saturday. Hamas has warned that its men will raid homes of the clan members if Johnston is not released by Monday this week.
A Hamas official in Gaza City told The Jerusalem Post that his movement was determined to free Johnston "even if we have to wipe out the entire clan." He described Mumtaz Dughmush as a "deranged murderer and mercenary" who was trying to imitate former Jordanian arch-terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi.
The official said that Mumtaz Dughmush and his gang were behind the bombing of more than 50 Internet cafes, restaurants and hair salons in the Gaza Strip over the past year. "There's no room for such lunatics in the Gaza Strip," he stressed. "The era of armed gangs and mafias is over."
Quoting senior Hamas officials, the Post revealed on Friday that Mumtaz Dughmush was seeking assurances from Hamas that he and other members of his clan would not be killed after the release of Johnston. Hamas has accused members of the Dughmush clan of killing a number of Hamas militiamen and officials in the Gaza Strip.