GAZA,(Reuters) – Palestinian security forces hunted on Thursday for a British human rights activist and her parents abducted in the Gaza Strip, but officials reported no immediate progress.
Kate Burton, a 25-year-old worker at the Palestinian rights group Al Mezan, was showing her visiting parents around the chaotic southern border town of Rafah when they were kidnapped by gunmen on Wednesday afternoon.
Palestinian authorities have so far failed to identify the kidnappers, security sources said. They began contacts with an armed group on Wednesday, but later found it was not involved.
Around seven kidnappers, armed with automatic rifles, intercepted a car the three Britons were travelling in, pulled them out and pushed them into a white vehicle that sped away.
Nothing has been heard from them or their kidnappers since. There has been no claim of responsibility.
"We have checked with every single armed group and they have all denied kidnapping them," said an official in Al-Mezan. "We and the security services are searching in every direction to secure their release," he told Reuters.
Foreigners taken hostage in Gaza have usually been released within hours. The kidnappers, who have demanded jobs or the release of prisoners as ransom, generally make contact with the authorities to immediately begin negotiations.
After the kidnapping, Palestinian police set up roadblocks in Rafah and searched car boots for the missing Britons.
Gaza has seen a rash of kidnappings since Israel quit the coastal territory in September after 38 years of occupation, a move welcomed internationally as a potential spur to peace, though the Palestinian Authority is struggling for control.
The last victims were a Dutchman and an Australian, teachers at a Gaza school, who were briefly abducted last week by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which demanded that its leaders be released from jail.
Palestinian human rights groups demanded the Palestinian Authority do more to curb kidnappings in Gaza.
"The lack of action by the Authority against those who stood behind previous kidnappings encouraged others to carry out crimes of that kind," the Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights group said in a statement.