Kate Burton: I cannot forgive them for what they have done

Hostage reveals for the first time the kidnap ordeal she suffered with her parents

The tension reached breaking point as the gunmen holding her and her parents, Hugh and Helen, were preparing to make a video stating their demands and Ms Burton, 24, was urging them to release the family.

In her first detailed account of the 58-hour ordeal to three British newspapers, including The Independent, she said: "The situation was starting to get very tense. Maybe they felt they hadn't achieved what they wanted. They began getting nervous and started shouting at me.

"One of the two main guys said: 'I can't believe you have been so disrespectful - we have given you blankets, we have given you food, we have treated you so well'.

"I got really mad and said: 'I can't believe you're doing this. Do you want me to get down on my knees and say thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you?' I was exhausted and started crying. I said: 'I came here to work with the Palestinian people and now I feel I have been stabbed in the back.'"

Ms Burton made it clear that this was one of the few occasions when the kidnappers behaved in anything other than a calm, even hospitable, way towards their victims after seizing them at gunpoint - or in which her own remarkable self-possession briefly cracked.

She said that from the time they arrived at about 4.15pm last Wednesday at the first of three Gaza safe houses, "they tried to make us feel at home in the Arab style. They offered us tea, coffee, water, chocolate, popcorn. You don't want to co-operate with them by accepting, but then you feel guilty because they have been so kind - overlooking the fact, of course, that they have kidnapped you.?

She admitted that she had e-mailed British diplomats about her parents' impending trip to Gaza and had been referred to last month's travel advice from the Foreign Office, advising Britons against all travel to Gaza. Ironically, she had wanted to use her parents' 24-hour trip to Gaza to " show them the good side of the Palestinian territories and to reassure them that she was relatively safe working in Gaza".

She added: "I feel really guilty. I feel irresponsible. I'm the one who lives here and should have known better. I have given them their worst Christmas and holiday ever. Luckily nothing happened but it might have."

While the emotions of all three Burtons had gone "up and down" during the ordeal, they appear to have kept their composure to an impressive extent, although her parents had both said that this would be their last trip to Gaza.

The kidnappers offered the family packages of new clothes. Although the family were reluctant to accept them, Ms Burton said: "My mother put on the trousers and told the guys she wanted to wash her knickers. Then she asked one of them to hang the knickers up on the line outside the house. She embarrassed him a bit. He blushed a bit, but put them up on the washing line. "

Despite her reluctance to accept creature comforts from the kidnappers, she had finally applied a little toothpaste with her finger while eschewing the offer of a toothbrush. The family had become "pretty scummy" by the end of the ordeal, she said.

She explained that they had been moved twice at night, first on Thursday to a house in southern Gaza five minutes away from the first one, and the second time on Friday night - after a power cut which delayed production of the kidnappers' video - to a third house either in Gaza City or northern Gaza.

She said that her father had been "irritated" on the first day and had repeatedly stressed to the kidnappers that he and his wife had a flight to catch. He had also asked them whether they realised that the Erez crossing from Gaza into Israel closed at 9pm.

Ms Burton's account - which is the fullest and most graphic from any of the victims of the series of kidnaps in Gaza over the past year - appeared to reflect her own conflicting feelings of guilt about exposing her parents to the ordeal and her anger towards the kidnappers themselves - but laced with an element of sympathy towards what she saw as the desperate conditions in which they live.

Ms Burton said she felt "sorry for the guys" because of their "shattered lives", and the fact that they were, in effect, on the run and had family members who had been killed in the conflict.

But, at the same time, she added: "I can't forgive them for what they did and I hope they don't keep doing it in the future. I understand that the majority of the Palestinian people are not like them."

Ms Burton emphasised that she wanted to continue working in the occupied territories, but would "assess her options" about where she would work. She admitted that she was a "bit worried about personal security" in the event of a return to Gaza, but added that the security crisis would only be solved with the end of Israeli occupation and a viable economic future for the strip.

She added: "I definitely want to stay working with the Palestinian people one way or the other"

Adding that Palestinians in Gaza were living in "disgusting conditions" she declared: "I've never met people like the Palestinians. They're the strongest people I've ever met. I would feel kind of guilty turning my back on them. I think it's awful what the kidnappers did, but it made me even more impressed with the Palestinian people - how they rallied together to try and get us out."

While Ms Burton, who speaks Hebrew and Arabic, is strongly pro-Palestinian, she added: "I have a lot of Israeli friends. I speak their language and I try not to get too involved. You have to stand back and see there are two sides to every issue."

She said the kidnappers - who had apparently tracked the Burtons during their tour of Rafah - told the family they had a made a mistake. "They said they thought we were Americans," Ms Burton said. "But when I said you have made a mistake, so why not let us go, they said it was too late." The kidnappers told the family repeatedly that they would be released unharmed "in a few hours".

Ms Burton said she now had worried about the impact of the kidnappings on European election monitors due to oversee Palestinian elections this month. But while the monitors had been threatened in the videotape, she said the kidnappers, who were strongly "pro-Arafat", had been preoccupied by what they saw as the failure of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to press Israel to allow voting to take place in East Jerusalem.

News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Media baron Rupert Murdoch owns News Corps and 20th Century Fox
theatrePlaywright David Williamson is struggling to find a big name to star as the media mogul
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Functional/Full Life Cycle

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Func...

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Business Intelligence Consultant - Central London - £80,000

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Consultant - C...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?