Hamas and Italian’s murder


The Hamas government that rules the Gaza Strip said Saturday it had arrested two more suspects in connection with the murder of an Italian activist who was hanged just hours after his abduction.

The interior ministry “managed to arrest two suspects” in the murder on Friday of pro-Palestinian activist, 36-year-old Vittorio Arrigoni, in addition to two other suspects previously taken into custody, a Hamas statement said.

“The security forces continue to hunt other members of the group responsible for the murder,” said the statement.

The suspects arrested were being questioned about Mr. Arrigoni's murder, the statement added, but made no mention of their names or when they were detained.

Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, on Friday denounced the kidnapping as an attempt “to harm international solidarity with besieged Gaza and to damage the image of the Palestinian people.”

The Italian activist was found hanged in a house north of Gaza City, and Hamas blamed his murder on al-Qaeda sympathizers.

A group of strict Islamists known as Salafists had threatened on Thursday to execute Arrigoni unless their leader Hesham al-Sa'eedni, who was by Hamas in March, was freed.

Hamas strongly opposes the Salafists, who adopt a more extreme form of Islam and appear to be attracting recruits—including from among Hamas’s ranks.

“The government media office denounces the criminal kidnapping and murder of an Italian solidarity activist... who was found by security hanging in an abandoned house in northern Gaza,” Hamas said on Friday.

Another Hamas government spokesman, Ihab al-Ghoussein, branded the murder a “heinous crime, which has nothing to do with our values, our religion, our customs and traditions.”

“The other members of the group will be hunted down and the law will be applied,” Mr. Ghoussein said.

In clip posted earlier on the video-sharing site YouTube by his abductors, Mr. Arrigoni was shown blindfolded with blood around his right eye. A hand was seen pulling his head up by his hair to face the camera.

“The Italian hostage entered our land only to spread corruption,” an accompanying Arabic text said, describing Italy as “the infidel state”.

Salafists see Hamas as inadequately zealous, have attacked Internet cafes and want Christians expelled from the impoverished territory.

They condemn Hamas for considering ceasefires with Israel and exploring diplomatic relations with secular Palestinian rivals Fatah.

(Sara Ghasemilee of Al Arabiya can be reached at: [email protected])