Four members of Hamas’ armed wing were abducted in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday after the bus they were on was stopped by unidentified gunmen, sources close to the Palestinian group and Egyptian security officials said.
Egypt accuses Hamas of supporting militant groups seeking to topple the Cairo government, an allegation the movement denies.
A bus with about fifty Palestinians on it was travelling from Rafah on the Egypt-Gaza border to Cairo airport when it was ambushed, the security sources said.
Hamas’ interior ministry confirmed that four Palestinians were kidnapped on their way to Cairo.
“We urge the Egyptian interior ministry to secure the lives of the kidnapped passengers and free them,” Gaza interior ministry spokesman Eyad al-Bazom said, adding that the bus was being escorted by Egyptian soldiers.
Spokesmen for Egypt’s military and interior ministry could not be reached for comment.
No group has claimed responsibility for the incident.
Sinai is the focal point of an Islamist insurgency that aims to overthrow the government, and the most active militant group in the area is the Egyptian affiliate of Islamic State, Sinai Province.
The insurgency has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since Egypt’s military removed Islamist president Mohamed Mursi from power following mass protests against his rule in 2013, and Sinai Province recently killed an abducted Croatian hostage.