Gunmen kill two Jews in West Bank

BEITUNIA, West Bank (Reuter) - Arab gunmen shot dead two Jews in the Israeli-occupied West Bank yesterday, as Israeli and Palestine Liberation Organisation peace-makers met in France to try to break a deadlock over the start of Palestinian self-rule.

The gunmen riddled the Israelis' car with bullets in a daylight attack near the village of Beitunia, 18km (10 miles) from Jerusalem, security sources said. Before speeding off, the attackers scattered leaflets claiming responsibility in the name of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, which has vowed to sabotage the September PLO-Israel peace accord.

In Versailles, Israeli and PLO negotiators met behind closed doors to try to break the deadlock over Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and West Bank town of Jericho, which constitutes the first phase of the peace accord.

Withdrawal was to have begun more than a week ago but was postponed after peace talks stumbled over security issues, particularly control of border crossings between Gaza and Egypt and between Jericho and Jordan. Israel opposes PLO control of the crossings, saying that under the peace accord, external security in a five-year interim period is to remain in its hands.