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Palestinian gunmen kill 2, wound 25

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian gunmen opened fire Tuesday on a crowded market in the northern town of Afula. One Israeli was killed at the scene, and another died at a local hospital.

As many as 25 others were wounded, Israeli police and hospital sources told CNN.

The two gunmen were shot dead at the scene, according to eyewitnesses.

Palestinian sources said both men were from the Jenin refugee camp. They were identified as Abdul Kareem Sirriyeh, a member of Islamic Jihad, and Mustafa Abu Naaseh from the Fatah Movement.

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A Palestinian source said the attack was in retaliation for the Israeli assassination of Mahmoud Abu Hunoud, a Hamas leader killed last Friday in an Israeli missile attack.

A hospital spokesman told CNN, four people are in very serious condition with six others suffering moderate injuries. The rest of the injured were suffering from shock and light injuries.

Israel Radio reported that the assailants shot at people at an open air market near the center of the town, which is close to the West Bank border and has been targeted by several terrorist attacks over the past year.

The attack came as two U.S. mediators were holding a second day of meetings with Israeli leaders in hopes of ending 14 months of Middle East violence.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon greeted retired U.S. Marine General Anthony Zinni and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns at his Jerusalem office. The officials made no comments to reporters.

After the meeting, the visitors went on a helicopter tour of Israel and the West Bank, with Sharon outlining Israel's security needs.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said Zinni, who arrived with Burns on Monday, will stay in the region for as long as it takes to cement a cease-fire and put a U.S.-backed truce-to-talks plan into motion.

The talks began after Israeli forces completed a pullout Tuesday from Jenin, the last of six West Bank Palestinian towns that they entered last month following the assassination of an Israeli Cabinet member, a spokesman for Israel Defense Forces told CNN.

A Palestinian security official dismissed the last pullback from Jenin as cosmetic, saying troops still had Jenin and other West Bank towns under blockade.

The talks also come in the wake of an admission by Israel Defense Forces that it had left the device that exploded on Thursday that killed five Palestinian boys.

The explosive in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in southern Gaza was placed there by Israeli soldiers to thwart Palestinian attackers.

CNN's Jerrold Kessel says there have been arguments within the Israeli Cabinet about whether to negotiate before a cease-fire is in force.

While the Palestinians have been pressing for peace talks to resume immediately, Sharon has said Israel will not negotiate until there is a seven-day period of "quiet."

Sharon appointed former general Meir Dagan -- instead of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres -- to head the negotiating team for talks with the U.S. envoys.

Israel Radio reported that the Palestinian delegation that will deal with the envoys is expressing strong reservations about Dagan, who is viewed by many Palestinians as hawkish and a right-winger. Zinni and Burns were scheduled to meet Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat on Wednesday.

CNN's Kessel said there was little confidence in the region about the U.S. peace mission, but the U.S. was pinning its hopes on Arafat, urging him to tackle violence by Palestinian militants.


• Israel Defense Forces
• Israeli government
• Palestine Red Crescent Society
• Palestinian Authority

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