Italian Journalist Kidnapped, Released in Gaza

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(AP) Masked gunmen abducted an Italian journalist in the Gaza Strip town of Deir El-Balah on Saturday, but released him unharmed about four hours later, Palestinian security officials said.

Witnesses said the gunmen stopped the car of Lorenzo Cremonesi of the Corriere della Sera daily and forced him into their vehicle.

Palestinian security officials said the kidnappers were a small group from about 60 armed Palestinians who earlier seized two Palestinian government buildings in the town, demanding jobs with the Palestinian Authority. They took Cremonesi in an attempt to bolster their claims, the officials said.

In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have abducted several foreigners for use as bargaining chips in local feuds. All hostages have been released unharmed after a few hours.

The kidnapping came just days before the last Israeli troops are to vacate the coastal strip, and was further testimony to the lawlessness gripping the area ahead of the pullout.

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