'There was just a second between life and death'

Fatah official describes his ordeal following release from kidnappers.

abu zaidah 298 ap (photo credit: AP)
abu zaidah 298 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Former Palestinian Authority minister of prisoner affairs Sufyan Abu Zaidah, who was kidnapped and released by masked Hamas gunmen on Monday, said that he never thought he would be a target. The senior Fatah official said he told his abducters, "You can see I am not afraid for myself, I am [however] afraid of the consequences of me being here, of you taking me. You know my people. "My prediction was right, the pressure was high. Phone calls were made by the highest ranks [of the movement]." Abu Zaidah was released less than three hours after being taken captive. He told Army Radio that the abduction took place at about 8 p.m. "I was in a car with two of my guards when were stopped by masked gunmen." Abu Zaidah described the looks on his captors' faces as if "they found something they were looking for." "They started screaming at us to stop the car while cocking their guns, shooting in the air and positioning themselves. My guards also cocked their guns, but I told them that they were not to go anywhere because of the dangerous situation," Abu Zaidah said. Abu Zaidah knew that had his captors opened fire "we would have all been dead... there was [only] a second between life and death. "I got out of the car and then people I recognized arrived at the scene, Hamas members. 'We are really sorry,' they told me, 'we had no intention of doing this, but there are a few of our people who were kidnapped and we need to use you in order to pressure your people [to release them].'" Abu Zaidah explained how they took him to "a house in the Jabalya refugee camp," where his attackers appeared confused. They did not know what to do with their weapons, and shouted conflicting orders at their captive, such as "Sit down! Stand up!" A quarter of an hour later another group of people came to take him away to "a quieter place," where he was told not to react in any way, not "to cry or hit, and to be respectful." "I was told by people I know, not masked men, 'Don't be scared,' in order to calm me down. 'No one will harm you,' they said." The entire ordeal lasted between two and three hours; he was released at 11 p.m. "I could have easily been killed... I was never a target before the event," said Abu Zaida. Asked whether he thought there was more hatred between Fatah and Hamas than between Palestinians and Israel, Abu Zaidah simply said there was a great deal of hatred between Hamas and Fatah.