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Report: Top Fatah Official Kidnapped

December 18, 2006

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) _ Assailants kidnapped a top Fatah official in the Gaza Strip late Monday, officials said, hours after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas defiantly insisted he would push ahead with new elections despite increasingly chaotic factional violence.

Sufian Abu Zaydeh, a former Cabinet minister with Abbas’ Fatah Party, was driving home in northern Gaza when he was stopped by gunmen in another car and abducted, said Abdul Rahim Awad, a party spokesman.

Fatah officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared for their safety, said they believed the militant Islamic Hamas was behind the kidnapping, which threatened to derail a day-old truce between the two parties. Officials with Hamas declined comment.

Abbas said Saturday he is seeking new presidential and parliamentary elections to end months of deadlock with Hamas, whose refusal to moderate has isolated the Palestinians internationally and driven them deeper into an economic crisis.

Hamas, which controls the Palestinian parliament, has accused Abbas of trying to illegally topple its government, and fighting between Hamas and Abbas-allied security forces in Gaza worsened after Abbas’ announcement.

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