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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 22:33 GMT
Aid official freed in Gaza Strip
Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip
Gaza is largely lawless after years of conflict
A German official from the International Committee of the Red Cross has been freed in the southern Gaza Strip just hours after being kidnapped by Palestinians gunmen.

A Red Cross spokeswoman said she had no other information than that Nicolai Panke had been released by his captors and appeared to be in good health.

Mr Panke was seized around midday local time on Thursday by four armed men outside the Red Cross office in Khan Younis where he is involved in aid work.

Red Cross officials immediately appealed to the Palestinian Authority and he was freed without any apparent demands being made by his abductors.

Palestinian security sources identified at least some of the gunmen as disgruntled former policemen.

Two dead

In the West Bank, two Palestinians were killed near the town of Nablus in an apparent botched suicide attack on a military checkpoint.

According to the Israeli army, a man wearing a suicide belt charged at troops at a crossroads near the Kedumim settlement, close to Nablus, after they ordered the taxi in which he was travelling to stop.

"Soldiers kept their distance and ordered the passengers and driver to get out with their hands in the air and shirts up, in line with standard procedure, when they saw one of the men was wearing an explosive belt," an Israeli army spokesman told the French news agency AFP.

Debris after Kfar Saba bombing
The thwarted attack follows a fatal bombing in Tel Aviv on Monday
The man with the explosives then ran towards the soldiers, shouting "God is great", and they opened fire, igniting his bomb.

The blast killed both the bomber and a second man in the taxi as well as injuring a third man in the vehicle.

Palestinian witnesses said they saw an explosion after Israeli troops opened fire, then the scene was closed off as ambulances arrived.

On Monday a Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and two others in an attack on a shopping centre in the town of Kfar Saba, near Tel Aviv.


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07 Nov 02 | Middle East
04 Nov 02 | Middle East
06 Nov 02 | Media reports
06 Nov 02 | Middle East
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