updated 12/21/2005 3:07:19 AM ET 2005-12-21T08:07:19

Palestinian gunmen abducted a Dutch school principal and his Australian deputy Wednesday as they drove to work at a private American school north of Gaza City, witnesses and security officials said.

About one mile from the school, armed men stopped the foreigners' blue Honda Civic.

The kidnappers forced the two men out of the Honda, bundled them into another vehicle and drove off, witnesses said.

After the abduction, the car was found locked and parked on the side of the road. Three Palestinian policemen guarded the vehicle.

The school administration confirmed that two faculty members were missing and sent its students home. About 100 students are enrolled in the elite private school north of Gaza City.

The abduction took place on the last day of school before the Christmas break and a day after a group of gunmen threatened to abduct foreigners if their demands to be folded into the Palestinian security services were not met. These armed men denied involvement in Wednesday's kidnapping.

Militant groups have kidnapped foreigners in increasingly chaotic Gaza recently, usually as bargaining chips to get relatives released from Palestinian prisons, secure jobs from the Palestinian Authority or settle personal scores. The kidnappings have all been brief, and the hostages have all been released unharmed.

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