TEL AVIV - Palestinian terrorists shot and killed an Israeli couple on Sunday as they drove near the Gaza border, marking the latest in a recent surge of violence that threatened to complicate Israel's planned pullout from the Gaza Strip.
Dov Cole, 58, and his wife Rachel Mizrahi-Cole, 53, of Jerusalem were murdered and five others injured, including the Gaza settlement council security chief, when the gunmen opened fire on their vehicle near the Kissufim border crossing in southern Gaza early on Sunday.
The Coles had returned from a Sabbath visit to their family in the settlement of Ganei Tal in southern Gaza.
The attack occurred shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ended a visit to the region, where she met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to try and save a fragile truce.
She also aimed to secure assurances that both sides would continue to cooperate on Israel's planned evacuation of all 21 settlements and four of the 120 in the West Bank next month.
Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Abbas's Fatah group, claimed joint responsibility for the shooting but said they were still committed to a truce declared in February.
Terrorists vow more attacks
The attack, they said, was in response to recent Israeli killings of terrorists and would be followed by more if the army continued its operations against gunmen in the West Bank and Gaza.
The shooting posed the latest threat to Sharon's pullout plan. Israel has vowed it would act to stop terrorists who try to disrupt the withdrawal, its first from land Palestinians want for a state.
Emergency vehicles from Israel's Gaza Beach Regional Council arrived at the scene after the attack. In the course of treating the injured, gunmen opened fire again, injuring council security chief Ami Shaked. IDF forces killed the terrorist, and scanned the area for further gunmen.
The army later closed the Kissufim crossing to Palestinians.
The Kissufim road is the main artery leading to the settlements of Gush Katif. The area has seen dozens of lethal attacks and attempted attacks by Palestinian terrorists, including a shooting in May 2004 in which five members of one family were killed
Major suicide bombing twarted
Army sources told Ynet that the attack was linked to an earlier attempted suicide bombing, which was thwarted by police and army units.
Forces detained a Palestinian in southern Israel on Saturday who was found with a five-kilogram bomb belt strapped to his body. The 18-year-old terrorist, linked to al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, had come from Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza and planned to carry out a suicide bombing in a crowded place in Tel Aviv, the army said.
The incident marked the first time a Palestinian suicide bomber had infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza Strip.