Two journalists, who have been held for nearly two weeks by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, were freed unharmed on Sunday. The abduction of the two journalists was the longest kidnapping to date of foreigners in Gaza.
Fox television correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig, received an emotional welcome at the Beach Hotel in Gaza city on Sunday -- just minutes after they were released from an undisclosed location in Gaza. The two men were abducted on August 14 by a previously unknown Palestinian militant group called the Holy Jihad Brigades.
Shortly after their release, the two men met with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Speaking to journalists afterward, Centanni said both he and Wiig were in good health, and he urged journalists not to avoid traveling to Gaza.
"I just hope this never scares a single journalist away from coming to Gaza to cover this story because the Palestinian people are a very beautiful and kindhearted people who the world needs to know more about. So do not be discouraged. Come and tell the story, it is a wonderful story," Centanni said.
Just hours earlier, the two men had appeared in a video, in which they criticized Israeli policies in the Gaza Strip, and said they had converted to Islam. Centanni told Fox Television on Sunday that he and Wiig were forced at gunpoint to make the statement.
Centanni, a veteran American journalist said that he and New Zealand-born Wiig were harshly treated during their initial period of captivity, saying they were tightly bound in painful positions, forced to lie face down on a garage floor and prevented from speaking with each other.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told journalists on Sunday that the kidnappers were from the Gaza area, but he would not say if active efforts were under way to arrest them. The previously unknown Holy Jihad Brigades had demanded that the United States release Muslim prisoners in exchange for the release of Centanni and Wiig. U.S. officials said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had been helpful in gaining the release of the two men.
Palestinian militants have seized about two-dozen foreigners in recent years, but nearly all have been released after a few hours of captivity, making the abduction of Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig the longest such kidnapping to date.