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Egyptian Diplomat Kidnapped in Gaza Strip

Palestinian militants have kidnapped an Egyptian diplomat in the Gaza Strip. And in an escalating spiral of violence, gunmen also attacked an Israeli border crossing.

Masked Palestinian gunmen shot out the tires of a diplomatic vehicle carrying an Egyptian military attaché in Gaza City and abducted him in broad daylight. Gaza militants have kidnapped about 20 foreigners in recent months, but this was the first kidnapping of a diplomat.

Egypt is one of the most important allies of the Palestinian Authority and has played a dominant role in efforts to revive the peace process with Israel. Palestinian officials were embarrassed.

"We totally condemn such acts which harm the interests of the Palestinian people," said Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.

The kidnapping underscores the growing lawlessness in Gaza since Israel pulled out of the territory in August. Hours earlier, two Palestinian gunmen attacked the Erez border crossing from Gaza into Israel. They threw hand grenades and opened fire on Israeli troops, who returned fire and killed the assailants. The army said one of the gunmen was wearing an explosives belt which blew up during the exchange of fire. There were no Israeli casualties.

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says the situation has become worse since the Islamic militants of Hamas swept to power in Palestinian parliamentary elections two weeks ago.

"They don't want to see peace, they don't want to see reconciliation, they're the enemies of both Israel and the Palestinians in that they don't want to build a better future," Mr. Regev said.

Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel, said the attack was legitimate resistance. Hamas leaders said they would never arrest anyone fighting the Israeli occupation.