Lethal terror attack on eve of peace talks : Four Israelis were murdered Tuesday evening after the vehicle they were traveling in was ambushed by terrorists in the Hebron region.
At least some of the victims, who are all residents of Beit Hagai, are members of the same family. Ambulance service officials said the victims include two men aged about 25 and 40, as well as two women of roughly the same ages, one of them pregnant.
According to initial reports, an Israeli vehicle traveling in the area came under fire directed at it from a passing vehicle at the Bani Naim junction on Highway 60, between Hebron and Kiryat Arba.
More than one terrorist apparently took part in the attack, with Channel Two reporting the attackers apparently confirmed the death of the Israeli victims by shooting them at close range, before fleeing the scene.
Police at scene of shooting attack (Photo: Reuters)
"The vehicle was sprayed with dozens of bullets," a paramedic at the scene told Channel 2. "There were numerous shell casings around. We found four bodies and there was no chance whatsoever to help them; all we could do was to pronounce the death of these four Jews."
Paramedic Guy Gonen told Ynet: "The victims were hit by numerous shots from short range. It looked like a well-planned ambush."
IDF security forces were scouring the area for suspects. Notably, the army had been on high alert ahead of the resumption of peace talks in Washington. Troops set up roadblocks on Hebron-area roads in an effort to nab the attackers.
The IDF also imposed a closure on the nearby village of Bani Naim, Palestinian sources said.
Military officials said that they did not have any specific advance warning of such attack, but rather, only routine alerts. Following the attack, security forces across the nation were ordered to go on high alert ahead of the possibility of further attacks.
'Message to negotiators'
Palestinian security forces were also informed of the attack, which took place just as the Ramadan fast was ending, and are looking into the incident. A Palestinian security official said that a Hamas cell is believed to be behind the lethal attacks. He noted that the last attack in the Hebron region, which left an Israeli police officer killed, was also the work of Hamas.
Meanwhile, speeches from loudspeakers at a mosque in the northern Gaza Strip celebrated news of the attack.
Security forces at Bani Naim junction. Four killed (Photo: Reuters)
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Ynet the attack was not meant to foil direct peace talks, and said the negotiations had failed even before starting.
"This is a natural response by the Palestinian resistance to the enemy's crimes, and is proof that despite the resistance's persecution by the security services and despite Israel's crimes, the Palestinians are capable of responding to these crimes."
"This is proof that the Palestinian resistance is living, breathing, and kicking," he said.
Addressing the Palestinian Authority's estimate that Hamas was behind the attack, Barhoum said: "Things are not as they were described by the Authority's security forces."
Meanwhile, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) told Ynet Tuesday's shooting attack was a message to the Palestinian negotiating team ahead of the resumption of direct talks with Israel.
"They should not have embarked on this move without the support of the Palestinian people," PRC Spokesman Abu Mujahid said. "Our people still espouse the resistance and do not believe in the fictitious talks scheduled to commence tomorrow. "
"This is proof that the Palestinians and Palestinian groups reject the negotiations doctrine and only espouse resistance, which continues anywhere, anytime," he said.
Ronen Medzini, Ari Galahar, Raanan Ben-Zur, Ali Waked and Reuters contributed to the report
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