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Ten dead, 30 wounded as Palestinians open fire on bus

Sharon convenes cabinet meeting as violence continues



JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened a cabinet meeting Wednesday after Palestinian gunmen ambushed a bus on the West Bank, killing at least 10 people and injuring 30 others.

Israeli authorities said an explosive was set off near the bus which was traveling to the Immanuel settlement from Tel Aviv. Gunmen then opened fire, police said. Three cars following the bus were also fired on during the incident.

Ambulance officials said when they arrived, they were fired on. The Jewish settlement of Immanuel is located northwest of Ariel on the West Bank.

In Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said that two suicide bombers had set off blasts near the Gush Katif settlement. The explosions killed the bombers and lightly wounded four Israelis.

They said mortar bombs had been fired at a car north of the settlement but no one was hurt. Ra'an Gissin, an Israeli government spokesman, said the latest attacks "leave us no alternative but to take the necessary steps." He said there would be "quick reaction. No attack will go without a response."

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The Palestinian Authority issued a statement late Wednesday condemning the attack on the bus and two suicide bombings.

"The Palestinian Authority condemns the military operations carried out on a bus near settlement of Immanuel and in Gush Katif this evening," part of the statement read.

Asked about reports that U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni had negotiated a 48-hour truce between Israelis and Palestinians, Gissin said Israel was not violating the agreement.

Wednesday's violence was the latest in a cycle of attack and retaliation that began when Palestinian suicide bombers killed 25 Israelis in Jerusalem and Haifa the weekend of December 1-2.

Israel has responded to a spate of mortar attacks and terrorist bombings with airstrikes against the Palestinian Authority and other targets in the West Bank and Gaza.

In addition, the governor's office in the West Bank town of Jenin said that at around 3:20 p.m. local time on Wednesday two Israeli tanks and jeeps went one kilometer into Jenin toward the governor's compound. They said the Israeli army fired machine guns wounding one Palestinian national security guard moderately. They then retreated to the outskirts of the town after approximately a half hour.

The Israel Defense Forces said Palestinians opened fire toward the Israeli forces east of Jenin. They said the forces moved forward towards Jenin returned fire and retreated.

Targeted killings to continue, Israel says

Meanwhile, the Israeli prime minister's office said Wednesday it would continue in the targeted killings of terrorists who are on their way to carry out attacks and also said Israel would respond to every terror act.

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said that such a decision was "certainly ominous" in light of intense efforts by the United States and the European Union to bring about a real cease-fire in the region.

"It's very clear, that while they want to shell and pound and kill and destroy Palestinian people and their institutions with total impunity, that [while] putting enormous pressure on the Palestinians, on their victims, to calm things down and not to respond and not to react," Ashrawi charged.

Israeli leaders, however, say they have had to take such action because of what they say has been repeated failures by the Palestinian Authority to arrest terrorists.

Ashrawi's statement followed two attacks by Israeli helicopters in the town of Khan Yunis in Gaza late Tuesday. Palestinian security officials said four people were killed in the raids.

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli attack helicopters struck targets in Beit Hanun in northern Gaza, Palestinian sources said. Witnesses identified those targets as a building housing Arafat's personal guard, Force 17, and another building belonging to the Palestinian intelligence service. There were no reports of injuries in those attacks.

The strike by Israel Defense Forces followed Monday's mortar shell attack that lightly injured a 4-year-old Israeli girl in the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif in Gaza. Four mortar shells were fired from Palestinian territory.

Also on Tuesday, Israeli troops killed two Palestinians at a military checkpoint near Tulkarem.

Earlier this week, European Union and U.S. mediators sat down with Israeli and Palestinian officials to discuss bringing peace to the troubled region.

Zinni on Tuesday hosted a meeting of security officials from both sides. Top political sources in Israel told CNN that Israeli officials said they were seeing the first signs of action by the Palestinian Authority, such as people being stopped and arrests being made.

But the sources said much remains to be done, and Israel is waiting to see if the Palestinians are serious about cracking down.



 
 
 
 


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