Five days after being kidnapped in the Sinai Peninsula, Amir Omar Hassan, 26, has landed at the Ben Gurion Airport. The Nazareth resident was abducted by Bedouins together with a Norwegian woman en route from Taba to Dahab.
"The kidnappers physically assaulted us and threatened to harm us," he recounted. "They told us that unless their relatives are released we will die."
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Hassan and Ingvild Selvik Ask, a 32-year-old pediatrician, were released into Egyptian authorities' custody on Monday. "It was the craziest safari I've ever been on," Selvik was quoted as saying by a Norwegian tabloid.
Hassan, who was accompanied by Arab MK Ahmad Tibi, was welcomed at the airport by family and friends. He related the story of his abduction: "I left Taba for Dahab on Thursday. We took a cab and were ambushed at around 8 pm. The driver who was with us tried to escape and ended up crashing the car," he told reporters.
"Within seconds about 10 armed men turned up, pulled us out of the car and dumped us inside in the back of their jeeps. At first they physically assaulted us and tried to intimidate us. When I spoke to them in Arabic they said 'shut up, you are going to die.' Then they took us to the desert and the road was very hard."
Hassan, a student at the Ben Gurion University, said he did not know Selvik whom he met at the Taba Crossing where the two shared a cab. "I spoke to her during the tough days and today we're good friends," he remarked.
He did not rule out future trips to Sinai. "I initially thought I would never return to Sinai but now I have no problem returning, it could happen to anyone."
Despite the rough ordeal, Hassan said he could empathize with his captors. "They treated us well. They kept moving us from place to place – all in order to release their brothers who are jailed in Egypt. In this case I can understand them a little. "
Upon Hassan's return, Israel's Foreign Ministry issued a statement thanking Egyptian Authorities "for their quick, efficient and successful action for the release of the kidnapped Israeli and Norwegian tourists.
"We all share the happiness of the Hassan family upon the homecoming of their son, Amir, whom we greet with a 'Welcome Back"!
After their release, the two said they were treated well by their captors. "These have been difficult and exhausting days, however, our captors never hurt us, and we received good treatment. We hope such incidents do not happen again," Hassan told the Egyptian news agency.
Selvik shared the sentiment. "The kidnappers treated us well and gave us food and drink. However, we have been through a very difficult four days," she said.
She additionally expressed hope that Egypt would be a more hospitable place for tourists in the future.
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