JERUSALEM – Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Saturday that he hoped the case of two kidnapped FOX News journalists would be resolved "in the coming hours."
The journalists, correspondent Steve Centanni, 60, of Washington, D.C., and cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36, of New Zealand, were seized in Gaza City on Aug. 14. Their captors demanded the release of all Muslims imprisoned by the U.S. in exchange for freeing the FOX journalists.
The kidnappers said they were members of a previously unknown group called the Holy Jihad Brigades. It was not clear whether they were local militants, either with ties to Hamas or the rival Fatah movement, or whether they sneaked into Gaza from outside.
"We hope that this issue is going to be over in the coming hours," Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, said in a statement.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal said authorities were exerting efforts to release the journalists, but were not negotiating with the kidnappers.
On Wednesday, the kidnappers released video of the hostages for the first time. Wearing track suits, Centanni and Wiig were seen sitting cross-legged on the floor of a dark apartment. They said they were being treated well.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called on Saturday for the journalists' release.
"Palestinian authorities must continue their efforts to secure the safe release of these two professionals, who were unjustly taken while trying to report the news from Gaza. These journalists should be freed immediately and unconditionally," said Joel Simon, executive director of the committee.
In the past two years, Palestinian militants have seized more than two dozen foreigners, usually to settle personal scores, but released them unharmed within hours.
Wiig's wife, Anita McNaught, traveled to Gaza soon after the kidnapping to appealing for the men's safe release. Centanni's brother, Ken, has made a similar plea.
Click here to read the full text of both statements.
On Friday, civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson also called for the two men to be freed.
"They are in a crisis they did not create. They should not be kept as trophies and we appeal for their release," Jackson told New Zealand television network TV3.
Jackson was to lead an ecumenical delegation to the Middle East this weekend to meet with political and religious leaders about the kidnapping and other developments in the region, including the capture of three Israeli soldiers by Islamic militants.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.