The British journalist Alan Johnston has been freed after almost four months of captivity in Gaza. The BBC correspondent was handed over to Palestinian officials early this morning after a late night deal was struck with his kidnappers. Hamas says this proves the movement is bringing order to Gaza after its armed faction seized control last month.
Johnston looked tired but well at a news conference at the home of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Displaying a remarkable sense of composure, Johnston said it was “fantastic” to be free after an “appalling” ordeal in which he felt his life was threatened: “The last 16 weeks of course are just the very worst you can imagine of my life. It was like being buried alive, really, removed from the world, and occasionally terrifying,” he said. “We were in the hands of people who were dangerous and unpredictable, and always frightening because you didn’t know when it might end,” he added.
Johnston also revealed that he had been unable to see the sun for three months and was once chained for 24 hours. The only western journalist to live and work in Gaza, Johnston was kidnapped on March 12 by the shadowy, little-known militant group The Army of Islam.