Activists stunned by killing; vow to stay in Gaza
GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas security forces, after interrogating a suspect, quickly traced the house where Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni was held captive on Thursday, but they got there too late.
"He was lying on the ground in a corridor between two rooms. It was hard to see him unless someone told you he was there because he was laid against the wall on the floor," a witness who had been at the scene said.
"He was dressed in black, the same way he appeared in the video. There was no sign he was shot. It is believed he was either hanged then laid down, or strangled on the ground," said the witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In a YouTube clip posted by his captors, Arrigoni was shown prior to his death blindfolded with blood around his eye. A hand was seen pulling his head up by his hair to face the camera.
The abduction and killing of Arrigoni shocked Gaza, inured as it is to clashes between Hamas fighters and Israeli forces. The scene of the killing in Gaza's Sheikh Rudawan neighbourhood was very tense. Hamas security cordoned off the house.
Gaza's police chief and senior leaders of the internal security service arrived and United Nations personnel arrived to identify the 36-year-old's body.
The pro-Palestinian activist and blogger was killed hours before the deadline his Islamist captors had set for Hamas to release one of their imprisoned leaders, Hamas sources said, adding the abductors had no intention of letting him go alive.
"There will be no tolerance with figures of twisted thinking any more," a Hamas security source said. "Those who give a bad and a wrong image of Islam."
Arrigoni had been in the Palestinian territories for 10 years, first in the West Bank. He was asked to leave by Israel and he arrived in Gaza in August 2008 with the first ship of the Gaza Free Movement.
Silvia Todeschini, a friend and fellow member of the International Solidarity Movement, worked with Arrigoni in Gaza.
"Victor (Vittorio) worked with the Palestinians, he worked for the Palestinians," she told Reuters.
"He worked with fishermen, he accompanied fishermen when they were going to fish, in non-violent interpositions" on the maritime limit imposed by the Israeli navy.
"He used to work with farmers when they used to go to cultivate their lands near the buffer zone" with Israel, the scene of many shooting incidents over the past four years.
"He used to participate in non-violent demonstrations."
Todeschini said activist friends did not believe it when they were told police had found the body of Arrigoni.
"At the beginning we did not believe it, we thought it was just a joke. But then we saw the video and we believed it."
"We really know that most of the Palestinians are not murderers and that they understand that we are here working for them," she said, adding:
"We have projects to do here and we have to continue ... This will not kick us out. We will stay.
(Reporting by Reuters team in Gaza. Writing by Douglas Hamilton)
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