Update: Associated Press reports the release of Roberto Vila several hours after his abduction
Unknown gunmen have on Monday afternoon, kidnapped a Spanish aid worker named Roberto Vila Xesto in the central Gaza Strip.
Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s reporter that the Spanish citizen was accompanying another aid worker, Celine Gagne, and an interpreter in a car travelling on Salahaddin Street, in Deir al-Balah in the middle of the Gaza Strip, when a number of gunmen blocked the way and kidnapped him, taking him from the car.
Vila Xesto, 34, from Ourense in Galicia, is in Gaza working for the institution “Cooperacion por la Paz” [Cooperation for Peace], which works closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Madrid-based NGO works with sanitation projects, empowerment of women, capacity-building, emergency health servies and advocacy of the Palestinian cause.
It is understood that he was returning from a handicapped children’s project when the group were confronted, and he was forced out of the car in which they were travelling, into a yellow Skoda, and was driven away at high speed in a southern direction.
Colleagues of his have appeared on Spanish television, hopeful for a swift release.
His kidnap has been condemned by the Palestinian union of journalists, stating that “the frequent cycle of kidnapping foreign journalists and activists is a dangerous phenomenon, which marks a violation of the freedom of expression, guaranteed by international laws and traditions.”
The union also accused the kidnappers of being a “group of terrorists who are irrelevant to the Palestinian national community and who distort the image of the Palestinian struggle.”