Gaza kidnappers release UK rights worker, parents

Kate Burton, 25, a worker with the Al-Mezan Human Rights Group in Gaza, was released with her parents Hugh, 73, and Helen, 55.

Kate Burton 298 ap (photo credit: AP)
Kate Burton 298 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Three British nationals were released here late Friday by their Palestinian kidnappers, apparently no worse for wear from their two-day captivity which began when they were taken by masked gunmen near the Rafah border Thursday morning. Kate Burton, 25, a worker with the Al-Mezan Human Rights Group in Gaza, was released with her parents Hugh, 73, and Helen, 55, by a previously unknown group which called itself the Mujahideen Brigades Jerusalem Branch. Burton, who worked part-time at the Blue Hole Pub in Jerusalem when she was not in Gaza, has long been committed to the Palestinian cause. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post in September, Burton said that "Israelis needed to look at the Palestinians more humanely." When asked at the time if Palestinians needed to view Israelis the same way, she did not answer. Despite her kidnapping, Burton's attitude seemed unchanged based on a statement released by her family Saturday morning through the British Foreign Office. "We are in good health and have been treated extremely well through the ordeal," the statement said. "Kate Burton plans to stay in the region and continue working with the Palestinian people. The incident was just one in the context of a severely increasing state of insecurity in the Gaza Strip, and Kate remains committed and passionate about working alongside the Palestinians to improve their external image and alleviate the difficult conditions being suffered by the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip," the statement concluded. On Friday night, friends at the Blue Hole said they had tried to contact Burton since her release but she had not returned any phone calls. Palestinian security officials said the Burtons were abducted by gunmen with ties to Fatah. The Mujahideen Brigades Jerusalem Branch threatened more abductions of foreigners if Israel doesn't abolish its "no-go" zone in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel imposed the off-limits area this week to prevent rocket fire, and has threatened to fire on anyone entering the zone. The kidnappers said they released the hostages after receiving assurances that Britain and the European Union would seek an end to the Israeli buffer zone. British officials denied that a deal had been struck. The kidnappers also said they would seize international election observers if their demands were not met. Mathias Eick, a spokesman for the observers, said Saturday the group did not plan to change its deployment ahead of the parliament election, but would keep assessing the risk. AP contributed to this report.