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Released Australian speaks about Gaza kidnap -

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(generated from captions) is very, very small. That report from Genevieve Hussey. With the continuing incapacitation of Israeli PM Ariel Sharon, there's more than usual attention now on the strategic play in the Middle East. But the personal story of one Australian caught up in the chaos of the region is instructive. Just before Christmas, Brian Ambrosio, a teacher at the American International School in Gaza, was kidnapped by gunmen seeking the release of Palestinians held by Israel. The principal of the school was also detained, but fortunatley both men were freed after eight hours - time enough for students at their school to organise a demonstration demanding their release. Mr Ambrosio is now back home in Australia to spend some time with his family in the northern Victorian city of Wangaratta. He spoke to Mick Bunworth today about his ordeal

Brian Ambrosio, why did you go to

Gaza? It wasn't a decision I took

lightly and it's not something that

I immediately jumped into. A

I immediately jumped into. A friend of mine was going to the school and

told me about his desire to go

told me about his desire to go there and my instant reaction is, "You'd

have to be crazy to want to go

somewhere like that. " We then

informed ourselves, talked to

teachers at the school and the

principal at the school and

principal at the school and informed ourselves of what life is like to

live there, back in 2003 and then

from that informed choice we

from that informed choice we decided to go there. Brian Ambrosio's

relatively uneventable tenure as

vice principal of the American

International school in Gaza came

International school in Gaza came to a grinding halt just before

Christmas. What did you think when

the cars cut you off and armed men

got out and you looked behind and

there were more armed men, what

there were more armed men, what went through your head? I felt very calm.

It was when the car pulled out in

front of us - I just thought it was

another crazy Gaza move by the cars.

It's quite erratic and I honked

It's quite erratic and I honked the horn and then they got out and

pointed the guns and said, "Get out

of the car". And my natural

reaction was if I keep calm here,

I'm going to be OK. At that point,

my stomach didn't drop, I just

immediately went into, "I'm OK, I'm

OK, yep no worries, whatever you

say. " I got out of the car and

they got me into the car, they

they got me into the car, they tried to put a hood on me and I kept

saying, "I'm OK, I'm relaxed, I'm

fine. " One of them said, "He's OK,

take it off," I thought in Arabic.

They saw I was relaxed and they

relaxed and from that point, there

wasn't a gun pointed at me from

wasn't a gun pointed at me from that point onwards, so my fears in

point onwards, so my fears in regard to my personal safety wasn't about

them harming me, it was the fact

there were machine guns and there

were some grenades. I thought if

anything's going to happen it's

going to be an accident or if

there's going to be a raid of where

we were staying that there might be

cross-fire and things like that.

Did you at any stage during the

ordeal fear death? No,I didn't.

I've got a very positive outlook on

life. I'm an optimist and I'm a

mathmetician and the law of

averages, as I said earlier on, 50

years people who've been delivering

humanitarian and aid work to Gaza,

no-one's been killed other than

activists who've been on the

front-line in front of Israeli

bulldozers or in front of where

there's guns firing off. I just

thought, commonsense will be that

I'll be fine. The P LFD have been

asking for the release from prison.

asking for the release from prison... When they made you read

the statement, how did you feel

about that? When I saw - that was

one moment when I started to get a

little bit scared because I saw the

video camera about half an hour in

video camera about half an hour in I saw the video camera and I thought,

"This isn't Gaza, they don't

"This isn't Gaza, they don't usually do the video camera thing. " Then

they said, "We just n want you to

read the statement out. " We tried

to procrastinate for a little while.

We'd go through it and ask them

again and we thought if we could do

this long enough, hopefully we'd be found.

this long enough, hopefully we'd be. Clearly they thought you were

American? They got very frustrated

when they realised we were

Australian and Dutch. It felt like

we were the poor cousins and they

just decided, "What are we going to

do with an Australian and a

Dutchman?" They indicated to us if

we were American they would hold us

for longer. Did you try to talk to

them and talk them into letting us

go? I tried to talk them into, "Let

not do the video thing. " Can I

ring anyone? We can talk and do

something for you. At one stage I

was talking to them about come on,

my family and my wife. They were

going, "We're sorry, we'll try and

do it as quickly as we can.

do it as quickly as we can. " When it became apparent you were to

be released, that must have been a

great relief? We had a false hope

around 12:30. They said, we're

going to drop you off around your

car and you can drive home. It

seemed strange but we were happy

with that. And then there was a

long time where they said, "No, no,

no, we can't do that. " That was

the toughest time. It was getting

very cold. I was starting to

realise that this could be getting

international and getting back home

and we didn't - we had one guy

and we didn't - we had one guy could speak English and he was telling us

what was going on and he wasn't

saying anything for quite a while.

And then we were sort of like,

"You're about to be released, it's

coming soon within the next hour,

but we have to give you lunch first

before you go. " As a sign of

hospitality? Absolutely. They set

the table up in front of us. We

were the only two people that had

yoghurt in a tub and it felt like

yoghurt in a tub and it felt like we were there for dinner as the guests

and it was like a, "We can't let

and it was like a, "We can't let you go without feeding you," sort of

thing. It was a very surreal sort

of experience because thrfrs those

moments of absolute hospitality,

coupled with the fact that we were

kidnapped and they were forcing us

to stay there, yeah. Why did your

captors let you go in the end?

There was always the intention to

let us go, it was just a matter of

time and doing the negotiation.

There was a negotiator from the

Palestinian Authority who was

talking with them for a reasonable

amount of time and then he

eventually come and took us out of

there and then to the Government

buildings in Gaza City. Will you go

back to Gaza? We are reassessing

back to Gaza? We are reassessing the school is suspended at this point

and reassess at different intervals

as to whether it's safe for

foreigners. It's few tile to send

24 foreigners into Gaza when

kidnappings can happen so randomly,

as over the past few weeks. Has

what's happened to you changed your

view in any way about the

Palestinian cause? The recent spate

of kidnapping does not help the

Palestinian cause one bit. But I

think we have to put it into

think we have to put it into context that 99% of Palestinians would

that 99% of Palestinians would agree with you and I that kidnapping is