A group calling itself "The Free People of the Galilee" claimed yesterday that it abducted an Israeli woman and demanded that Israel release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for information about her fate.
The group, through a leaflet and a militant spokesman, said it kidnapped Dana Bennet, who was 18 at the time of her disappearance in the summer of 2003 and also has US citizenship.
The leaflet contained no proof that the group indeed was involved in the kidnapping or knew anything about Bennet's whereabouts. The group is not previously known.
A top Arab militant, who demanded not to be identified further, said in a telephone call that Bennet was abducted in 2003. He reiterated the demand made in the leaflet that Israel release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for information about her fate.
In August 2003, Bennet had finished her shift as a waitress in the town of Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, and failed to arrive at her home. Her disappearance was reported several days after the body of a missing soldier was found buried a short drive from where the girl was last seen and on the same day another soldier reported an attempt to kidnap him, raising the level of public anxiety.
Islamic militant groups have repeatedly threatened to kidnap Israeli soldiers or civilians. Yesterday's leaflet marked the first time a claim of responsibility and ransom demands were made in connection with Dana Bennet's disappearance.