Four killed in Mideast shootout

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

AFULA, Israel -- Two Palestinians sprayed a bus station and open-air market with gunfire Tuesday, killing two Israelis and wounding 14 others before being shot to death. Two U.S. envoys witnessed the immediate aftermath of the attack from the air, flying over Afula in a helicopter tour narrated by Israel's prime minister.

Later, a Palestinian attacker in Gaza fired at a car and killed an Israeli woman, the military said. Three other Israelis were wounded. Israeli soldiers shot and killed the gunman, Palestinan security and Israeli military sources said.

An Israeli army spokesman said the attacker fired at the convoy and threw grenades. He said the Palestinian apparently was a member of the militant Hamas group.

One of the American mediators, retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, said the bloodshed underscored the need for a truce after 14 months of fighting. "A cease-fire is what we need to get to something more comprehensive and lasting," he said.

Two Palestinian groups -- Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Brigades linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement -- claimed responsibility for what they said was a joint attack to avenge the targeted killings of Palestinians.

After several minutes, the assailants were cornered by security forces and killed in a firefight.

said police spokesman Gil Kleiman. A reserve soldier, Menashe Mekonnen, said he shot one of the gunmen in the head. "He shot again, and then he fell," Mekonnen said.

Fatah gunmen have targeted Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent months, but have largely refrained from carrying out attacks in Israel.

Tuesday's shooting came on the first full day of a new truce mission by Zinni and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns. After the helicopter tour with Sharon, meant to illustrate Israel's security concerns, the envoys met with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Today, Burns and Zinni are to hold talks with Arafat.

Sharon insists on a week without Palestinian attacks before Israel carries out its obligations under a U.S.-backed truce brokered earlier this year.

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