The family of a British human rights worker kidnapped with her parents in Gaza have expressed their deep concern. Kate Burton's family described her as "a warm and loving person" who works as a volunteer in the Middle East. It is not clear who abducted the 24-year-old and her parents, Hugh and Helen, in Rafah, on Wednesday. Palestinian authorities have stepped up efforts to find them, as reports say militant group the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades has condemned the kidnappings. The authorities have set up road blocks where the family were snatched, and in the town of nearby Khan Younis. In a statement on Thursday, the Burton family said: "We are a close family and are naturally deeply concerned about our parents and sister.
"Kate is a warm and loving person and has been working as a volunteer in Gaza for the past year trying to do what she can to help the situation there. "We are grateful for the help and messages of support that we are receiving." The family said the situation was sensitive and did not want to comment further.
Palestinian officials said they were in contact with armed groups, but did not know where the family was. Protests for their release have been held in Gaza. Frank McGinley, of the British consulate general in Jerusalem, said officials were investigating. Efforts are ongoing to find out whether the kidnappers are asking for a particular local problem to be resolved or whether there is a wider issue.
According to a Palestinian Satellite Channel TV, a spokesman for the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades criticised the abduction, saying it could not be justified. A hooded gunman from the group called for the immediate release of the hostages at a news conference in Rafah, it reported.
It is understood that Ms Burton, who speaks Arabic, as well as fluent French and Spanish, was showing her parents around Rafah, near the border with Egypt, when the kidnappers struck. The abduction of foreigners is not unusual in the area, but hostages are usually released unharmed within hours after being used by groups to press authorities for money, jobs or the release of prisoners.
Michaela Meeraus, 22, from Oxford, a friend of Ms Burton's from university, told the BBC she was a passionate person who had an interest in the fate of the Palestinians, reports the AP. I.L.