It had begun out in the spring sunshine, on the streets of Gaza City. A saloon car had suddenly surged past mine, and then pulled up, forcing me to stop. A young man emerged from the passenger side and pointed a pistol at me. The figure with the pistol and another gunman forced me into their car, and as we sped off I was made to lie on the back seat. A hood had been shoved over my face, but through it I could see the sun flickering between the tower blocks. I could tell that we were heading south and east, towards the city’s rougher neighbourhoods.
Late on the first night of my captivity, the door opened. Its frame was filled by a tall figure in a long white robe. He stood for a moment, looking down at me – swathed in a red-chequered headdress that completely masked his face. The Jihadi leader had arrived. “Alan Johnston,” he said in English. “We know everything.”
Mostly the voice emerging from the mask was calm, and even kindly. He said that I would not be killed. That I would be treated well, in keeping with Islamic codes of conduct towards prisoners. Crucially, he said that I would eventually be allowed to leave. I asked when, but he just said, “when the time is right.”