24 year old Michael Leighton Phillips, an American teacher from New Orleans, of Italian descent, who had been teaching Palestinian children in the city of Nablus, the West Bank, English for close to half a year, was freed on Wednesday night, after allegedly being held hostage for a day by a Palestinian militant group.
The man had been brought to Palestinian security headquarters in Nablus, in order to be submitted to a series of inquiries as well as to hold a press conference, where he met former mayor Ghassan Shakaa and the chief of one of the security departments, who are both members of the Fatah party. Palestinian officials declared that they were in possession of no information with regard to the circumstances in which he was held hostage and how he was released.
However, what is a known fact is that a Palestinian militant group, which had called itself Ansar al-Sunna had made a series of official demands on Wednesday, asking Israel to release Palestinian women, sick people, senior ones and children from its jails, in exchange for the teacher, yet without advancing any deadlines. Moreover, the group announced that it had sent a photocopy of Phillips's passport to several news agencies and to the Palestinian security.
On the other hand, during an interview with the "Jerusalem Post" Israeli newspaper, Jeremy Wideman, the International Director of Project Hope in the West Bank expressed his opinion with regard to the fact that Phillips may have not been kidnapped at all: "We don't even know if he has been taken. He has not been around for one day and it could be that he just went away for the day".
The IDF had repeatedly warned foreigners and Israelis to keep away from Nablus, as well as several other cities in the West Bank, given that the law itself had forbidden them to enter these territories: "People risk their lives when entering these places. Nablus is a dangerous city, it is the terror capital of the West Bank and foreigners should think carefully before traveling there", a Palestinian officer highlighted.