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Americans in Gaza Warned of Kidnap Threats

Americans in Gaza Warned of Kidnap Threats

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JERUSALEM (AP) -- The U.S. Embassy has received "credible reports" of plans to kidnap U.S. citizens in Gaza, the Embassy announced on its Web site Friday.

"At this time, Americans are advised to be particularly cautious," the announcement said, adding that citizens should also follow recommendations already on the Web site to defer travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

The Islamic militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad are mainly based in Gaza, but Hamas said it is not planning attacks against Americans. Both groups have claimed responsibility for scores of attacks in Israel that have killed more than 350 people in more than 21/2 years of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

"We are battling with the Zionist enemy and not with the United States," Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi told The Associated Press on Friday, referring to Israel. Hamas "will not target any American or any other nationalities."

The existing travel advisory on the Web site urges all American citizens in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem to "consider relocating to a safe location," or to avoid crowded public places such as malls, restaurants, bus stops that have been targets for suicide-bomb attacks by the militants.

"Ongoing violence has caused numerous civilian deaths and injuries, including to some American tourists, students and residents," the already-existing travel advisory stated. "The potential for further terrorist acts remains high."

The warning also came after the deadly May 12 attacks on three housing compounds for foreigners in Saudi Arabia and the deadly attacks in Morocco on May 16.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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