Dad abducts kids to Gaza
Thu, August 12, 2004

A PALESTINIAN man abducted his five Swedish-born children and fled to the Gaza Strip, where he has held them illegally for more than two months, his former wife and the Swedish Foreign Ministry said yesterday. A relative of the father said the children, ages 6 to 16, will not be allowed to return to Sweden, because the Gaza family does not want them to live a Western lifestyle -- and destroyed their Swedish passports.

Swedish and Palestinian officials are trying to resolve the family drama, which pits Islamic custom against Western law. However, growing unrest in the West Bank and Gaza raises questions about the ability of Palestinian authorities to take action.

The children's mother, Elisabeth Krantz, said her ex-husband, Ismail Nowajah, a Gaza native, removed the children from their home in Sweden on June 4, under the pretext of a vacation to Cairo, Egypt.

However, the next day Nowajah sent them by taxi to his sister's home in Gaza City, Krantz said. She said her ex-husband called her two days after leaving Sweden, and told her she would never see the children again. She said she's had limited contact with them and that they are being held against their will.

Nowajah refused to talk to an Associated Press reporter, but authorized his cousin, Nasser Khail, to speak for him. He was adamant the children would not return to Sweden.

"If the mother wants to see her kids, she can come here and see them, because we will not let them go back to Sweden," Khail said. "We even burned their Swedish passports." He said the family does not want the children to live in the West. Khail said the kids live with Nowajah relatives, because the dad is unemployed.

Krantz, a 39-year-old nurse, said the couple was finalizing their divorce when her husband told her he wanted to take the children to Cairo.

She said Nowajah, 44, promised to bring the children back, and offered to take along one of Sara's friends as a guarantee. Sara's friend said she was left behind in Egypt.