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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 22:11 GMT 23:11 UK
Israel bus station gunman kills three
Gunman lies dead after the attack
Police say they found a suicide note on the gunman
A suspected Palestinian gunman disguised as an Israeli soldier has opened fire at a crowded bus station in the northern Israeli town of Afula, killing three people, Israeli officials said.

Another 14 people were wounded, two of them seriously, before Israeli police shot dead the attacker, news reports said.

The attack took place minutes after ceasefire talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke up without agreement.

Meanwhile, in the divided West Bank town of Hebron, a Palestinian was killed and several children injured in a shoot-out with Israeli soldiers, according to Palestinian witnesses.

A BBC correspondent in Jerusalem says it is clear the ceasefire now exists only in name.

Nahum Zamir, a bus driver at the scene of the attack in Afula, told Israel Radio the gunman was dressed as a soldier.

"He just started shooting in all directions," the bus driver said.

A 76-year-old man died instantly and two women died in hospital, the Associated Press news agency reported.

'Suicide note'

Police said they believed the gunman was a Palestinian militant.

He just started shooting in all directions

Bus driver Nahum Zamir

Israeli minister Tzipi Livni said the attack at Afula "is an additional result of (Palestinian leader) Yasser Arafat's refusal to honour his commitments".

Israeli radio stations reported that police found what they believed to be a suicide note written in Arabic on the gunman's body.

Bus driver Michael Harel said he saw the assailant opening fire.

"I heard a series of shots at a murderous pace. There was a panic and everybody started to run," Mr Harel told Israel radio.

Palestinian militants have carried out several bombings in Afula in recent years.

The city lies just across the border from the West Bank town of Jenin, from where Palestinians have launched suicide attacks against Israeli targets in the past few months.

Settlers extricated

In a separate incident in the West Bank on Thursday, two Israeli settlers barricaded themselves in a house in the village of Jaljilya, north of Ramallah, in the area controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Israel radio reported that the two, residents of the West Bank settlement of Tapuach, entered the village "by mistake or by design" and found themselves surrounded by angry Palestinians.

They ran into a house and held two of its inhabitants at gunpoint, while armed Palestinians surrounded the house, a settler radio station reported.

The army sent in tanks and armoured personnel carriers to rescue the two and return them to their settlement.

The Palestinians say the two were security personnel known to the villagers.

A Palestinian official quoted by the Israeli Ynet news website said Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ordered Palestinian security officials to ensure the two settlers' safe release.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Jerusalem
"Palestinians are again bracing themselves"
Hamas spokesman Dr Mahmoud Zaharis
"There was no ceasefire...we are continuing our intifada"
Israeli government spokesperson Tzipi Livni
says the international community should regard the latest violence as serious terrorism
See also:

03 Oct 01 | Middle East
Gaza families bear brunt of hostilities
02 Oct 01 | Middle East
Bush 'endorses' Palestinian state
30 Sep 01 | Middle East
Israel gives Arafat ceasefire ultimatum
20 Sep 01 | Middle East
Risks and rewards of Mid-East truce
10 May 01 | Middle East
Claiming the 'Promised Land'
19 Oct 00 | Middle East
Who are Hamas?
03 Oct 01 | Middle East
Gaza violence clouds Rumsfeld mission
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