Three Britons kidnapped in Gaza

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The Independent Online

Three British citizens were kidnapped as they entered the Gaza Strip from Egypt through the Rafah crossing today, Palestinian witnesses and security officials said.

The incident was the latest in a series of abductions in Gaza that has undermined Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' attempts to establish order in the coastal strip following Israel's withdrawal this summer.

Security officials in Gaza said one of the victims is a human rights worker but had no further details. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Palestinian security spokesman Adnan Barbach confirmed that the three are British citizens.

Recent kidnappings of foreigners in Gaza have ended without bloodshed and with the hostages being released unharmed. In most cases, the kidnappers were seeking jobs in the Palestinian security forces, the release of imprisoned relatives or other personal matters.

Abbas' critics have accused him of giving in to kidnappers' demands, thereby encouraging more abductions.

Frank McGinley, a duty officer with the British consulate general in Jerusalem, said his country was investigating the report but had no further comment.

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