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29 Jun, 2007 20:33

Israel frees Russian citizen snatched in Gaza

Diplomats have secured the release of a Russian citizen who was detained during a raid by Israeli troops in Gaza three weeks ago.

Dr Sami Abu Snein became a Russian citizen in the late 1990s while studying to be a surgeon at the Medical Academy in the Southern Russian city of Krasnodar. He later moved to Gaza with his Russian wife Elena Moiseeva.

In the chaotic madness of his homeland, there are too few doctors, which is why Dr Abu-Snein works more than ten hours a day to save the lives of his people. He never thought he would become one of the victims.
“As a doctor, I was always a respected person here. I always helped people. I never had a problem with the Israelis or the Palestinians. My duty as a doctor is only to help and save people,” Sami Abu-Snein says.

A year ago, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by a Palestinian organisation and taken deep into Gaza. Almost every night Israeli Special Forces try to retrace the steps that could lead them to him. And 20 days ago this search took them to Dr Abu-Snein’s front door.

“On June 9, I got ready to go to work and I saw the soldiers surrounding the house. They started to shout in the megaphones for all men inside to get out. I took my passport and got out. I didn’t know where they took me but I later understood it was to Israel. They put ropes on my hands and blindfolded me. We were twenty hours with closed eyes and ropes on our hands somewhere deep inside Israel,” the doctor recalls.

At first, Dr Abu-Snein didn’t understand the charges against him. It turned out that a piece of property he claims he sold three years ago had been used to build a tunnel from where the Israelis believe the militants entered Israel to take Gilad Shalit. 

In the first two days his interrogation was very difficult. 

“In the beginning they kept me a long time in isolation and used very cruel methods in the investigation. After the people from the Russian embassy interfered, the Israelis started to treat me much more humanely and softly,” Sami Abu Snein says.

Thanks to the efforts of diplomats from the Russian Embassy he is back in Gaza with his family.

“I can’t explain what I feel now. I didn’t expect to see my family again. This is the happiest moment in my life. I am back among my family and my people,” he said.

A few days ago Gilad Shalit’s captors released a tape of his voice. The soldier said he desperately needed medical treatment.

Because the Israeli army is desperate for any information that could help them find the kidnapped soldier, they follow up on all leads and have made dozens of arrests, many of which are of innocent people.