gunman raising head 88.
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Masked gunmen kidnapped an Egyptian diplomat in a brazen daylight attack Thursday that underscored the spiraling lawlessness in the Gaza Strip, and showed that no one - not even an official from one of the Palestinians' most important allies - is immune from the violence.
The Egyptian was the first diplomat nabbed amid a recent spate of kidnappings, and the abduction marks the most serious attack on diplomats since three American security guards were killed when a US diplomatic convoy was hit by a bomb in October 2003.
The kidnapping of Hussam Almousaly occurred at about 11 a.m., when two masked militants shot out the tires of his diplomatic vehicle, just 200 meters from the heavily-guarded Egyptian diplomatic mission in Gaza City. The gunmen sped off with Almousaly, witnesses said.
The identity of the gunmen was not known even hours after the attack, and Palestinian security officials said they had not been contacted with demands.
Palestinian police set up roadblocks throughout Gaza to try to find the kidnappers, and officers questioned possible witnesses.
"We totally condemn such acts," Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said, identifying Almousaly as an Egyptian military attache.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was working to "expedite the release of the kidnapped diplomat."
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri condemned the abduction, saying it "harmed the Palestinians' strong relations with Egypt."
A senior Israeli diplomatic official said that the abduction proved the degree to which the Palestinian Authority had been plunged into chaos and lawlessness.
"There has been a complete deterioration of law and order," the official said. "No one is in control - not the PA, whose security forces are either incapable, unwilling or in a complete state of disarray, nor Hamas, which has not stepped in yet."
The official said the incident was an acute embarrassment for both Fatah and Hamas, who are both looking to Cairo for various forms of guidance. The official denied reports that the Egyptians had removed all advisors and security personnel from the Gaza Strip, saying that while some had returned home, others had remained.
The official also referenced reports that the PA had released a number of Islamic Jihad terrorists held since late 2005 in a jail in Jericho, saying that if true, it was indicative of the same pattern as the kidnapping of the Egyptian diplomat - complete disarray.
The official said that under the Oslo accords, someone who committed terrorist acts and was apprehended by the PA must be tried and, if convicted, sentenced. If these people were then released, the official said, Israel would be within its legal rights to "arrest or stop them."
The official said Israel was carefully monitoring the breakdown of law and order in the territories, concerned that it would spill over to Israel and generate an upswing in terrorist attacks.
Some 20 foreigners have been kidnapped in Gaza in recent months, and have been used by the kidnappers as bargaining chips to try to get jobs from the PA or to secure the release of jailed comrades. The PA routinely accedes to their demands, and all of the previous hostages have been released unharmed.
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