Mashaal blames Israel for kidnapping; appeals to British people to remember Palestinian prisoners; asks PM Gordon Brown "to begin new chapter."
By JONNY PAUL
Hamas claimed on Thursday it had played an integral part in the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston and blamed Israel for the reporter's 114-day ordeal and the international community for Gaza's plight.
In an article in the Guardian, Hamas leader in Syria Khaled Mashaal said: "From the outset, we committed ourselves to securing his release. I entered into discussions with British officials, shared information and gave assurances of our concerted efforts to secure Alan's release."
The BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, said the group's statement showed that Hamas was "responsible and powerful." In an article entitled "Hamas hopeful after Alan's release," Bowen speculates that Hamas hopes it has sent several messages following Johnston's release.
"The first is to any potential rivals in Gaza about who is boss. The second, and most important of all for Palestinians, is that [Hamas] is dedicated to ending the appalling lawlessness of the last few years," Bowen recounted. "The third message, aimed at the outside world, is that the release of Alan Johnston shows that Hamas is responsible, and powerful. It hopes to make itself impossible to ignore - and vital to engage."
Mashaal's Guardian article, entitled "We cheer the hard-won release of Alan Johnston, who was captured in a chaos imposed from afar," blames Israel for Johnston's ordeal.
"The kidnapping and 114-day-long captivity of Alan Johnston took place within a dysfunctional environment imposed from beyond Palestinian borders," he said.
Saluting the BBC journalist's release, Mashaal said that "Together with all freedom-loving peoples, we in the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, shared the moment of sheer joy yesterday when Alan Johnston stepped out of the darkness of captivity into the light of freedom."
The Hamas leader attacked Israel and appealed to the British people to remember Palestinians in Israeli prisons: "We hope that the British... reflect on the fact that more than 12,000 Palestinians are languishing in Israeli jails... They include ministers of a democratically elected government, parliamentarians, women and even children."
Mashaal also appealed to Britain's new prime minister.
"Palestinians will continue to make every sacrifice until we gain our freedom. In that endeavor, we are ready to work with all who wish to pursue our people's just aims. We look to Britain's new prime minister, Gordon Brown, to begin a constructive new chapter in our relationship."
Mashaal condemned recent foiled terror attacks in Britain and stressed where Hamas's battleground lay. "We could not be clearer: Hamas will not accept nor tolerate anyone exploiting the sacred cause of the Palestinian people to commit acts of murder and carnage around the world," he declared. "Our strategy has always been and remains firmly based on the principle that the resistance should be fought only within Palestine."
On Thursday, Johnston met Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah to thank Abbas for helping free him.
Meanwhile a group British members of parliament have called to engage Hamas. Some 20 MPs, from all parties, signed a motion in the House of Commons calling for a "new relationship" with the group following its part in securing Johnston's release.
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