updated 7/30/2005 12:37:23 AM ET 2005-07-30T04:37:23

Palestinian gunmen on Friday abducted two U.N. contractors, including an Australian woman, holding the pair for three hours before authorities secured their release.

It was the second abduction of a foreigner in Gaza this month. Although no one was seriously hurt in either incident, the unrest reflected the ongoing chaos plaguing the area.

Friday’s abduction was carried out by relatives of a Palestinian security officer who was seized by rivals the previous day in the nearby Bureij refugee camp. The family said it was trying to draw the attention of the Palestinian Authority to seek the release the officer, Jihad Abed.

United Nations Development Program officials identified the employees as Steve Sabella, a Palestinian photographer, and Zoe Constantine, a journalist from Australia.

After about three hours of negotiations, the pair was released and taken to the office of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The hostages refused to comment to reporters, and Australian diplomats were not immediately available for comment. U.N. officials also did not return messages seeking comment.

Abed’s relatives said they felt there was no other way to get attention from the Palestinian leadership.

“Foreigners’ lives are worth more than ours for the Palestinian Authority,” said Mervat Abed, the officer’s sister.

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