GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Two senior Palestinian security officials resigned Friday and the Palestinian prime minister called an emergency session on the future of his government after a wave of kidnappings, including of the Palestinian police chief and five French citizens.

Although the kidnappers released two of the French hostages late Friday, the crisis may have reached a breaking point, with one Palestinian official predicting the meeting could be the last for Ahmed Qureia’s government.

Witnesses saw two French women leaving the offices of the Red Crescent Society in Khan Younis, where they were held for three hours, escorted by Palestinian security officials.

However, the kidnappers continued holding three Frenchmen to press their demands for reform in the Palestinian government, said Palestinian officials monitoring the negotiations.

The specific demands were not immediately known, but complaints of corruption have been widespread.

Israel radio said the five hostages were humanitarian workers, but their identities were not known.

The French were kidnapped as they drank coffee in Khan Younis was the third in Gaza in less than 10 hours. Later Friday, two Palestinian security officials sent their resignations to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in response to the deteriorating security situation.

However, Arafat refused to accept the resignations of the head of the Palestinian intelligence service, Maj. Gen. Amin al Hindi, and the head of Preventive Security in the Gaza Strip, Rashid Abu Shbak.

A Palestinian official said the Palestinian government would meet in the coming hours to discuss the resignations, and the situation in Gaza.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the meeting could be the last for the government of Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia. He did not elaborate.

The deteriorating situation in Gaza reflected the growing tussle by militant groups and individuals to strengthen their positions before Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon fulfills his pledge to withdraw Israeli forces and some 7,500 settlers from Gaza late next year.



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