One has to wonder what kidnappers would hope to gain by the abduction Monday of the respected BBC journalist Alan Johnston. Johnston, who has covered Gaza for three years, is the only foreign journalist remaining in the increasingly-lawless area of the Occupied West Bank.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which has campaigned for tougher measures to deal with lawlessness in the Gaza Strip, condemned the kidnapping as "a flagrant violation of the freedom of expression... an illegal assault on [Mr Johnston's] person, and an insult to the Palestinian people and its struggle." The centre noted that Johnston was "respected for his professionalism and objectivity."
Excerpts from the latest BBC report on Johnson's disappearance:
The BBC has made a plea for information about the whereabouts of BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston. Middle East bureau chief Simon Wilson said the corporation had received no firm word on Johnston since he disappeared on Monday. He thanked all those who had tried to help resolve the situation, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and PM Ismail Haniya.
Haniya said he told security forces to do all they could to find him. He said all foreign journalists who came to the Palestinian territories were guests of the Palestinian people and should be protected. Kidnappings were unacceptable and "harm the civilised face of our people", he added.
Palestinian security officials say Johnston was kidnapped from his car by masked gunmen, but the BBC says it cannot independently verify these reports. Other reports in Gaza say he is healthy and negotiations are under way with the abductors to secure his release.
Reading a statement today in Gaza, Wilson said Johnston had dedicated the last three years to living and working with the people of Gaza and it was now becoming clear how much his efforts were appreciated. "We would therefore urge everyone with influence here to continue their efforts so that Alan may be reunited with his family and colleagues at the earliest opportunity," he said. Wilson said the journalist's family was being kept fully updated and was "very moved" by expressions of support from around the world.
Several Westerners previously have been abducted in Gaza. All were eventually released unharmed. The BBC said motives for the abductions were mainly local - unpaid salaries, demands for jobs or the release of jailed family members.
Prior to his posting in Gaza, Johnson worked as a correspondent in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.