Palestinian official: ‘First promising signs’ seen in efforts to free kidnapped Fox journalists
GAZA CITY, Gaza City – With a 72-hour deadline approaching, a senior Palestinian security official said Friday he saw the “first promising signs” in efforts to free two Fox journalists who were abducted in Gaza nearly two weeks ago.The comments by Interior Minister Said Siyam of Hamas marked the first upbeat assessment by Palestinian officials since Fox correspondent Steve Centanni of Washington, D.C., and cameraman Olaf Wiig of New Zealand were seized from their TV van in Gaza City on Aug. 14.”Efforts and contacts are being made to guarantee the safety and bring about the release of the two guests of Palestine,” Siyam said outside a Gaza City mosque.He said the contacts were made with major Palestinian militant groups, all of whom denied kidnapping the journalists or knowing where they were being held.”There are first promising signs,” he said, but did not elaborate. Earlier this week, Palestinian security officials said they had no leads.Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said winning their release is at the top of his agenda. “I have appealed to the kidnappers not to harm the journalists and to release them immediately,” he added.Security officials said they still had not made contact with those behind the abduction.A previously unknown group calling itself the Holy Jihad Brigades is demanding the release of all Muslims held by the U.S. by midnight Saturday, in exchange for the two journalists. It is not clear whether the kidnappers are local militants, either with ties to Hamas or the rival Fatah movement, or sneaked into Gaza from outside.The group did not say what it would do if the prisoners were not released.On Wednesday, the kidnappers released video of the hostages for the first time. Wearing track suits, Centanni and Wiig are seen sitting cross-legged on the floor of a dark apartment. They said they were being treated well.On Friday, civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson appealed for the two men to be released.”They are in a crisis they did not create. They should not be kept as trophies and we appeal for their release,” Jackson told New Zealand television network TV3.Jackson was to lead an ecumenical delegation to the Middle East this weekend to meet with political and religious leaders about the kidnapping and other developments in the region, including the capture of three Israeli soldiers by Islamic militants.”Please release them because to release them is to open up a door of opportunity for more meaningful dialogue. The same is true of the three Israeli soldiers … and of course, there are Lebanese and Palestinians who are in prison as well,” he said.
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