Nine Israelis killed in bus attack

Ibrahim Barzak,Associated Press
Wednesday 12 December 2001 01:00
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At least nine people were killed and dozens injured in a gun attack by Palestinians on a bus in the West Bank, during a day of violence in Israel, which also saw many injured in suicide bombings in Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

At least nine were killed and dozens injured in a gun attack by Palestinians on a bus in the West Bank, during a day of violence in Israel, which also saw many injured in suicide bombings in Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Violence continued throughout the day despite a US peace envoy's call for 48 hours of calm. Israeli helicopter gunships attacked a Palestinian refugee camp this morning in response to mortar fire on nearby Jewish settlements. Four Palestinian militiamen were killed and 20 bystanders wounded in the air strike.

The violence raised questions about the effectiveness of the US mediation mission. Only a day earlier, the US envoy, Anthony Zinni, had asked Israelis and Palestinians to observe two days of calm to help lower tensions and rebuild trust.

Neither side appeared to heed Zinni's request.

The attack on the bus took place after nightfall, at about 6 pm, as the bus was on a winding uphill road approaching the Jewish settlement of Emmanuel in the West Bank, about 25 miles north of Jerusalem.

Captain Jacob Dallal, an Israeli army spokesman, said an explosion caused by either a suicide bomber or a roadside bomb caused it to stop, and gunmen then opened fire from surrounding hills, both on the bus and on rescue crews that rushed to the scene in the darkness.

At least nine people were killed and between 25 and 30 were injured in the attack, some critically

At virtually the same time, two suicide bombers blew themselves up near the Gush Katif settlement in the Gaza Strip, wounding several people, the army and TV reports said. The assailants jumped on a car leaving the Ganei Tal settlement and detonated the explosives, TV reports said. The passengers in the car escaped with minor injuries but the assailants were killed, the reports said.

Earlier today, five Israeli tanks drove into the centre of the West Bank town of Jenin, triggering a firefight with hundreds of Palestinian activists. Fourteen Jenin residents were wounded by Israeli fire before the tanks left, doctors said.

The latest exchange began when Palestinians fired four mortar shells at Jewish settlements in the southern Gaza Strip late Tuesday. The mortar shells caused no damage or injuries.

In retaliation, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza late Tuesday and early Wednesday, killing four Palestinians and wounding 20, including four who were in serious condition Palestinian doctors said.

The first air strike targeted a hiding place of members of a local militia, the so-called Abu Rish group, which has tentative links to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, camp residents said. Two of the militiamen were killed immediately and two more in another Israeli strike an hour later, witnesses said.

Israel's military said those targeted in the air strike had been involved in firing mortars at Israeli settlements. It said members of the Islamic militant group Hamas were also involved in the shelling. The Palestinian police chief in the Gaza Strip, Brig. Gen. Abdel Razek Majaida, accused Israel of attacking civilian areas.

Palestinians responded to the air strikes by firing six mortar shells at Israeli settlements that damaged four homes and a car, the Israeli army said. Israel, in turn, fired tank shells at a building in Khan Yunis from which soldiers believed the mortar shells had been fired, the army said.

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