The British journalist Alan Johnston has been speaking of his relief at being released from his hostage ordeal in Gaza. The BBC reporter, kidnapped almost four months ago, was handed over to Hamas officials early on Wednesday morning. After arriving at the British consulate in Jerusalem, he spoke of feeling “fantastic” about his release: “It is just unimaginably good to be free. Maybe you have to have been a prisoner of some kind for some time to know how good it is to be able to do the most basic things that freedom allows – to have a haircut and to drink what you want and to walk through doors you want to walk through.”
He also praised Hamas, saying his release would not have been possible without the aid of the militant group: “Hamas took power in Gaza and suddenly the kidnappers who seemed to be cruising along in security terms no worries – suddenly they were worried and Hamas had them in their sights and the whole mood began to change and… hope against hope maybe we were moving into some kind of end game,” he said.
“Indeed that proved to be the case. Hamas is a controversial organisation with a lot of problems in terms of its relation with the outside world, but I am pretty sure that if Hamas had not come and stopped the heat I would still be in that room,” he added.
Johnston’s release ends a drama which lasted 114 days. He was abducted in March by the Army of Islam, a shadowy militant group dominated by Gaza’s powerful Dugmush clan. Hamas says his release proves the movement is bringing order to Gaza after its armed faction seized control of the territory last month.