GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – BREAKING NEWS: Hamas said Friday it is taking "serious and practical steps" to win the release of kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston.
Hamas spokesman Abu Obeideh told reporters in a midnight news conference that Hamas, which seized control of Gaza a day before, "will not allow anyone to attack journalists or foreigners, because they are helping our people."
Earlier, A Hamas source told FOX News that the kidnappers of BBC journalist Alan Johnston have handed him over to Hamas members.
The BBC's bureau in Jerusalem said, "We would love for this to be true."
Earlier, a person involved in the negotiations for Johnston's release said the captors promised to free him within 24 hours.
In seeking Johnston's release, Hamas is sending a signal to other armed groups that it intends to impose order in chaotic Gaza.
Johnston, 45, was snatched in Gaza three months ago by a group believed to have some links to Hamas, and a message purporting to be from his captors has demanded the release of Islamic prisoners, including a cleric being held in Britain.
Hamas has been negotiating with the captors through a mediator. An official involved in the talks, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said the captors pledged Friday to release Johnston within 24 hours.
In London, a BBC spokeswoman said, "We are aware of the reports, but have not received any firm confirmation of Alan's situation." She added: "We continue to work with everyone involved to try to effect Alan's safe release." She spoke on condition of anonymity under BBC guidelines.
Early Friday, Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida demanded that those holding Johnston free him at once.
"We will not allow his continued detention," he said. "We warn against not releasing him."
Johnston was seen for the first since his abduction in a video posted two weeks ago on a Web site used by Islamic militants. He appeared calm and said he was being well-treated and was in good health.
His disappearance is the longest of any Western journalist abducted in Gaza and has sparked numerous protests and solidarity marches in London and the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian officials have said they know where to find Johnston, but have held back on raiding the hideout at Britain's request, for fear of harming him.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.