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Friday, 5 October, 2001, 06:03 GMT 07:03 UK
Israeli army seizes Hebron hilltop
Jewish worshipers run for cover as Palestinians fire at them in Hebron
The incursion followed attacks on Jewish worshippers
Israeli troops and tanks have taken over a hilltop in the divided West Bank city of Hebron, after Palestinians used it to fire at Jewish visitors to the city for two days in a row.

Hospital sources said five Palestinians were killed in the early morning incursion.

Gunman lies dead after the attack
Police say they found a suicide note on the gunman
On Thursday, a Palestinian gunman shot dead three Israelis in the northern Israeli city of Afula.

After the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave a strong-worded speech warning the United States not to appease the Arab countries at Israel's expense, and saying that Israel would take whatever actions necessary to protect its citizens

On Wednesday and Thursday, Palestinians fired from the Abu Sneineh neighbourhood in Hebron at Israelis visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a disputed holy site, injuring two women.

In other violence in the city, a Palestinian was shot dead in an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers.

The Israeli army said in a statement that it sent its forces into Palestinian areas "for a limited period of time" until things calmed down.

Afula shooting

On Thursday a suspected Palestinian gunman disguised as an Israeli soldier opened fire at a crowded bus station in the northern Israeli town of Afula, killing three people.

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.

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.

Another 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 that Mr Arafat had ordered Palestinian security officials to ensure the two settlers' safe release.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Jerusalem
"On the ground it's the guns that are talking"
The BBC's James Reynolds
"Israel has given up on the ceasefire"
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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