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Italian journalist released after kidnap in Gaza

Masked Palestinian gunmen abducted an Italian journalist on Saturday in the latest in a string of kidnappings of foreigners in the Gaza Strip.
/ Source: Reuters

Italian journalist Lorenzo Cremonesi was released on Saturday, hours after being abducted by Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman said.

The abduction by masked Palestinian gunmen was the latest in a string of kidnappings of foreigners in Gaza that has underscored growing anarchy in the occupied territory Israel is about to leave.

The Italian government identified the journalist as Lorenzo Cremonesi, a reporter for Corriere della Sera.

A colleague at the daily's Milan editorial office had told Reuters that Cremonesi telephoned the newspaper and said he was being held by members of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.

Situation appeared ‘under control’
"His voice wasn't particularly agitated. The situation seemed to be under control," said the journalist, who asked not to be identified, before his colleague was released. "As it seems to be more connected to internal politics than anything international, we hope his release might be easier."

Four masked gunmen pulled Cremonesi out of a car in the town of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, but left his local interpreter behind, witnesses told Reuters.

Corriere della Sera said in a statement on its Web site that witnesses reported seeing the kidnappers force Cremonesi into their vehicle and drive towards Nusseirat refugee camp.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Several foreigners have been abducted at gunpoint in the Gaza Strip over recent months. All were released unharmed.

Possible link to government building occupation
Palestinian sources had said it was possible the latest abduction was linked to the occupation earlier in the day of two government buildings in Deir al-Balah by 200 al-Aqsa brigades gunmen who demanded jobs.

Abu Mohammed, an al-Aqsa spokesman, told Reuters the group had not sanctioned the kidnapping, which he said was carried out by members who had "made demands in the past of the Interior Ministry that were not met". He said shortly after the abduction he hoped Cremonesi would be freed soon.

Last month an Algerian Muslim journalist working for a French television station was kidnapped in Gaza City. He was released eight days after his abduction.