Tuesday, 29 May 2001

Kidnappings in Gaza

U.S., British citizens targeted in Mideast

By Matthew Kalman, USA TODAY

May 29, 2001

JERUSALEM — Palestinian forces intensified their attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians in the West Bank and Gaza on Tuesday as diplomats made progress in efforts to renew negotiations to end eight months of violence. In the Gaza Strip, Newsweek bureau chief Josh Hammer, an American, and British photographer Gary Knight, were kidnapped and held for five hours by a group loyal to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Hammer, Knight and a Palestinian driver and translator were kidnapped by the Fatah Hawks in the Gaza Strip.

They were told their detention was a "symbolic" kidnapping to protest British and American support for Israel in the current Palestinian revolt.

Hammer and Knight had gone to Gaza to interview the Hawks as the militia members fired mortars at Israeli settlements.

The group released them unharmed, but warned that U.S. and British nationals would be targeted in the future. "We have no other choice but to strike at and threaten American and British interests," the Hawks said in a statement. The group also denounced U.S. and British "bias" in favor of Israel.

Hammer said Palestinian officials told him Arafat was outraged over the kidnapping. Mohammed Dahlan, a senior Palestinian security chief, quoted Arafat as saying, "This isn't the Palestinian way."

Just before the journalists were released, two Palestinian suicide bombers died near an Israeli settlement in the southern Gaza Strip as they tried to attack an Israeli military position.

One blew himself up as he approached the soldiers; the second man was shot and killed. No others were injured.

In Jericho, a Palestinian was killed by an Israeli undercover unit.

In the West Bank, Palestinians were blamed in separate drive-by shootings. Two women who were citizens of both the United States and Israel were killed in one; an Israeli man died in another.

Israeli officials said there had been more than 100 attacks by Palestinian forces since Israel called a unilateral cease-fire last week.

Meanwhile, according to reports out of a U.S.-mediated meeting of senior officials from both sides in the West Bank town of Ramallah, the Palestinians rejected an Israeli call for a cease-fire.

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