Palestinian gunmen kidnap foreign teachers

Palestinian gunmen kidnapped two foreign teachers in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, pulling them from their car as they headed for work, witnesses said.The kidnapping of the Dutchman and the Australian was a sign of growing disorder that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is struggling to contain in Gaza after an Israeli pullout and ahead of a January parliamentary election.

Witnesses in northern Gaza said the teachers were on their way to a private school that follows the American curriculum for the last day of term before Christmas holidays."They were intercepted by between two to three other cars and then taken away," said a witness who did not give his name.

Gunmen have seized foreigners on several occasions, using the captives to press the Palestinian authorities for money, jobs or the release of jailed comrades.

Workers at the American School said the men kidnapped were the principal and vice-principal. Pupils, mostly the children of better-off Palestinians, were told to go home after the incident. The school did not make any comment.

Similar kidnappings have often been resolved within hours and the captives released unharmed, but they are an embarrassment for Abbas.Chaos has intensified in the Gaza Strip since Israel completed its withdrawal of troops and settlers from the territory in September after 38 years of occupation.

Abbas's failure to bring order is widely seen as a factor that could help to boost the Hamas Islamic militant group ahead of parliamentary elections on January 25, reports Reuters. I.L.

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