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Hamas sees progress in bid to free Gaza hostages

Written by: Staff
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GAZA, Aug 25 (Reuters) The Hamas-led Palestinian government said today that progress was being made in efforts to secure the release of a Fox News correspondent and camera man seized by gunmen in the Gaza Strip.

''Things are going in a positive direction,'' Palestinian Interior Minister Saeed Seyam of Hamas said in a statement, though he offered no details.

The statement was the first on efforts by the Hamas-led government to free Fox correspondent Steve Centanni and camera man Olaf Wiig.

Asked to elaborate on the statement, Interior Ministry spokesmam Khaled Abu Hilal would only say that there was ''an important development and progress'' in the case.

New Zealand-born Wiig, 36, and American Centanni, 60, were seized on Aug. 14 as they were working on a story in central Gaza City.

Theirs is the longest-lasting abduction in Gaza in more than a year.

On Wednesday, the previously unknown Holy Jihad Brigades claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and gave the United States 72 hours to free Muslim prisoners or else the captives would face unspecified consequences.

The deadline is set to expire around midday tomorrow.

A videotape released on Wednesday showed the men, dressed in tracksuits, sitting on a blanket in front of a black background.

They appeared fairly relaxed and in good health. Both said that they were fine and being treated well.

Several Palestinian militant groups active in Gaza, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the group that runs the Palestinian government, have denied any involvement with the kidnapping and have said that the men should be freed.

REUTERS KR KN1530

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