Photo: AP
Abduction scene
Photo: AP

Gaza: Foreign teachers abducted, freed

Dutch, Australian nationals abducted Wednesday morning by four gunmen in Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya; military wing of Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine demands to release jailed leaders, but gunmen free hostages few hours later

Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, released the two foreign citizens abducted Wednesday morning in the northern Gaza Strip.


The two citizens are Hendrik Taatgen, the Dutch principal of the American school in the Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya, and his Australian deputy Brian Ambrosio. Earlier, four masked gunmen shoved the two into a car and drove away.


Palestinian security forces were notified of the kidnapping and immediately embarked on a search of the northern Strip. The patrols focused on Beit Lahiya, where police officers searched almost every house.


The initial estimation was that the kidnapping was economically motivated and that the abductors were a group of unemployed people or gunmen demanding their salaries from the Palestinian Authority or demanding to become part of the Authority's security organizations.


The PFLP claimed responsibility for the kidnapping on Wednesday afternoon. The organization called for the release of its leader Ahmed Saadat, who is held in the PA's prison in Jericho along with the assassins of former Cabinet Minister Rehavam Zeevi. Saadat and his colleagues are jailed under supervision of American and British wardens.


In the meantime, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz met Wednesday afternoon with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman in an attempt to end the chaos in the Gaza Strip and the ongoing launching of Qassam rockets toward Israel.


Mofaz: Six warnings of terror attacks


At the start of the meeting, Mofaz stressed that Israel was preparing itself for any possibility, including a renewal of terror attacks from the Gaza Strip, as well as the rise of Hamas.


However, Mofaz made it clear to Suleiman that a ground operation in the Palestinian territory is not a high priority for Israel at the moment.


During the meeting, Mofaz elaborated on Israel's security situation versus the Palestinian Authority and the gradual reduction in PA leader Abbas' position. He mentioned the rise in the firing of Qassam rockets toward Israel, as well as the continued flow of funds from Damascus to Islamic Jihad headquarters in the West Bank.


According to Mofaz, Israel currently faces six specific warnings of terror attacks. He asked Suleiman to pressure the Palestinian Authority to fight terror.


The Egyptian official said that he would exert all his efforts in order for the Palestinians to combat terrorism more forcefully.


The two officials also discussed the Israel-Egypt border and agreed to maintain the strategic and security dialogue between the two countries. Mofaz praised the Egyptians for their activities on the Philadelphi route and said there has been an improvement in Egyptian operations along the border since his visit to Cairo last month.


Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 12.21.05, 15:47
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