Israelis kill four in Hebron

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MASSIVE Israeli firepower blasted a suspected hideout in Hebron yesterday, leaving four Palestinians dead, including a pregnant woman caught in the crossfire.

During a 22-hour siege, aimed at flushing out alleged Palestinian gunmen, dozens of rounds of anti-tank rockets and gunfire bombarded a three-storey building as the mosques around broadcast verses from the Koran in support of those under fire.

The Arabs of Hebron have been under curfew since a Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 30 Muslim worshippers on 25 February, and this latest Israeli assault is certain to bring tensions in the city to boiling point.

As the siege was under way, Lieutenant-General Ehud Barak, the Israeli Chief of Staff, was giving evidence to the Commission of Inquiry into the Hebron massacre. He sought to spread responsibility for the massacre to Mr Rabin, telling the inquiry that decisions about the arming of Jewish settlers had been taken at the 'highest level'.

Lt-Gen Barak confirmed earlier evidence that the army had 'not expected a massacre by a Jew'. 'We thought Jews only carry arms to protect themselves, while Arabs carry arms to kill a Jew,' he said.

But in his evidence to the inquiry yesterday he stressed that soldiers had misunderstood orders that they thought forbade them from shooting Jewish settlers. 'A massacre is a massacre is a massacre.

'You do not need special orders to know what to do,' he said.