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What is behind the Fox TV kidnaps?

What is behind the Fox TV kidnaps?

The kidnap of two Fox TV news staff by Palestinian gunmen is indicative of growing anarchy and poverty arising from Israel’s destruction of the Palestinian Authority and its economy, says Middle East politics expert Dr Nigel Parsons.

Dr Parsons recently returned from the West Bank where he was researching Fatah (the formerly-dominant political faction which lost its majority to Hamas in January’s parliamentary elections) and the PA’s security apparatus. He says the kidnappings of Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig are likely to be intended to embarrass Hamas and help the gunmen secure access to much-needed financial resources.

He notes the kidnapping, which no-one has taken responsibility for, is similar to others carried out by groups claiming to be the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a decentralised and radical offshoot of the mainstream Fatah movement.

“The brigades were formed during the second intifadah [uprising], in 2000, as a Fatah response to the success of Hamas, to compete for public support,” Dr Parsons says.

The author of a recently-published book on the Palestinian Authority, Dr Parsons has conducted more than 18 months’ research in Palestine and has interviewed key members of Fatah.

He is familiar with “hardcore” Fatah activists who described the formation al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as an informal and spontaneous decision among men who have a history of activism and access to weapons.

“The Brigades can be equated to a franchise. They are totally decentralised which means that anyone with guns and some mates and a will, who aren’t Hamas, can declare themselves a Brigade in a given locale.”

Dr Parsons says previous Brigade attacks provide possible explanations for the latest kidnappings.

“Since Israel destroyed the Palestinian security apparatus, then withheld finance from the new Hamas government, people are looking for means to support their families. One way of improving their position has been to kidnap a foreigner to remind what is left of the Authority of their needs. They might then be expected to be quietly recruited in the security apparatus, given a uniform and a salary.”

Dr Parsons says previous incidents have ended bloodlessly and hostages often end up sympathising with the position of their captors.

Another likely motivation is that the Brigades as an offshoot of Fatah hope to embarrass the Hamas government which is responsible for internal security.

He says in this case, the kidnapping could be a “win-win situation for the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.”

“If the stunt is designed to embarrass, and as previously no one gets hurt, they might come out of it having put another dent in Hamas and maybe even with a job.”

Dr Parsons agrees with speculation that the kidnapping may also be in retaliation for Fox TV’s pro-Israeli news coverage.


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