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Anger brews in Gaza over kidnapped 'students' Open in fullscreen

Imogen Lambert

Anger brews in Gaza over kidnapped 'students'

A press conference in Gaza with the families of the victim [al-Araby al-Jadeed]

Date of publication: 25 August, 2015

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Analysis: Hamas said that Egypt holds full responsibility for the kidnapping of four young Gazans in Sinai.
Concern and anger is growing in Gaza over the fate of four young Palestinians seized last week in the Sinai region of north-eastern Egypt.

Hamas said on Monday that it holds Cairo "fully responsible" for the lives of four of its members who were reportedly kidnapped last week by Islamic State group-aligned Sinai Province militants.

The movement warned against any harm coming to the four young people who "have fallen victim to treachery and deceit through no fault of their own - their only sin is that they are from the Gaza Strip".

The movement stressed that it would make "all efforts and actions in order to preserve the lives of the abductees and return them to their parents and their loved ones unharmed".

Abd el-Dayim in Rafah crossing, shortly before he was kidnapped
The four Palestinians have been identified as Abd al-Basit Abd al-Dayim, Abdullah Said Abdullah Abu Jibbeen, Yasir Fathi Misbah Zanoun and Hussein Khamis al-Thabda, and were all students, Hamas said.

Online sources have claimed the men were members of Hamas' armed wing, the Qassam Brigades.

A press conference and protest was held outside the legislative council in Gaza city on Monday to discuss the fate of the Gazans.

Read more: Hamas blames Egyptian security forces in kidnapping attack

Jibbeen's father told al-Araby that he had yet to hear about the fate of his son.

"I do not hold any party responsible, but everyone has to move in order to clarify the fate of our children, led by the president of the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestinian embassy in Cairo."

Ahmed Baba, speaker of the legislative council, said some Egyptian media had "exploited the kidnapping incident to practice incitement against the Palestinian people".

He condemned the media silence of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian embassy in Cairo.

'Bring back our 'kidnapped' - a protest in Gaza [al-Araby]
Abdullah's father told reporters his son's story.

"My son went to the Rafah crossing on August 19 after his admission to a Turkish university in the city of Izmir, and had been in contact with his brothers all the time. The Egyptian side stamped his passport, and told him he had a month to stay in Egypt."

That was the last Abdullah's family heard from him.

Friends of Abd el-Dayim spoke to al-Araby last week, telling of concern for their friend who had also received a scholarship to study in Turkey. 

"Abd al-Dayim is a noble and lovable young man... who suffered a lot to keep work balanced with his studies," said Moatassm Awaja.

Egyptian officials told the Bethlehem-based Ma'an News that the four had been taken hostage by the Sinai Province militant group as a bargaining chip to force Hamas to release some 50 Salafists currently imprisoned in Gaza.

Negotiations have reportedly begun between Hamas and the militant group, with the involvement of both Palestinian and Egyptian mediators.

Suspicious circumstances

However, although the men were initially thought to be taken by IS militants, circumstances surrounding the case fuel suspicions of official Egyptian involvement.

The men were taken just a few hundred metres away from the heavily militarised Egyptian side of Rafah crossing.

One of the victim's children with a photo of her father [Facebook]
The attack took place by four gunmen who boarded the bus with laptops, checked the passenger's IDs and arrested the four men.  

Egyptian security forces often board buses coming from Rafah and check passengers' IDs, rejecting those who they believe will remain in Egypt or are on a travel black lists.

As it is considered unsafe to travel through Sinai after dark, most buses are kept at the border crossing until it is deemed safe to travel - raising questions as to why this particular bus was permitted to leave at 8pm.

An official government worker at Rafah crossing also said that a representative of the office of the Palestinian ambassador to Egypt usually accompanies each bus. On the bus that was attacked, however, this was not the case.

The names of Palestinians crossing the border are given to to the Egyptian secret service, who vet those crossing and there is close intelligence co-operation between Egyptian security forces and Fatah's Palestinian security forces.

Egyptian security forces often detain and imprison Gazans in Egypt who are suspected of being members of Hamas.

However, any motives for either Egyptian or Palestinian security services to be complicit in this kidnapping remains unclear, even considering their unfriendly relations.

Egyptian security forces have been grappling with armed groups in Sinai for years, escalating after the ousting of Morsi in 2013.

In June, Bayt al-Maqdis, an Islamic State group franchise in Sinai, launched attacks in Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah in northern Sinai - claiming them as "a stunning victory against our enemies".

The Egyptian military has said that it has since regained control of the security situation in the restive province.

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