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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 18:58 GMT
Gunmen kill eight on Israeli bus
Ambulance at Emmanuel
Ambulance crews said 30 people were injured
At least eight people have been killed in the West Bank, when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an Israeli bus travelling to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlement.

As many as 30 more people were injured, when the bus came under gun and mortar attack as it was approaching the settlement of Emmanuel, north of Jerusalem.


This is in response to the recent killings by the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a group linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, said it carried out the attack.

"This is in response to the recent killings by the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," said an anonymous telephone caller speaking to Reuters news agency.

In a separate incident, two suicide bombers blew themselves up near the Neveh Dekalim Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, wounding four people, according to Palestinian security sources.

Israeli Government spokesman Avi Pazner said that Israel held Mr Arafat's Palestinian Authority responsible, and would "certainly find a way to respond".

"It is obvious here that their activity has not been curtailed at all by the Palestinian Authority and that the talk of arrests and action against terrorists were just a show for television," Mr Pazner said.

The Palestinian Authority condemned both attacks, and said it was trying to improve the security situation.

"The leadership reiterates that it is working continuously to reinforce calm and security despite continued Israeli escalation, bombardments and assassinations," said a statement.

'Arafat's answer'

The attacks came despite a call by US special envoy Anthony Zinni for 48 hours of calm.

Map

He made his appeal after talks on Tuesday with Israeli and Palestinian security officials.

The retired US general had asked Israel to refrain from attacking Palestinian targets for another 48 hours to give Palestinians a chance to crack down on extremist groups.

"Those terrorist acts are probably Yasser Arafat's answer to General Zinni's request for a 48-hour ceasefire. Apparently Arafat and the Palestinian Authority can speak only the language of terrorism and death," an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said, after Wednesday's attacks.

The Emmanuel attack took place at dusk, around 1800 (1600GMT), as the bus was driving up a winding hilly road towards the settlement.

An Israeli army spokesman said that an explosion caused by a bomb on the road, or a suicide bomber, caused the bus to stop.

Gunmen then opened fire from the surrounding hills on both sides of the road.

"They not only fired on a bus but shot at ambulances trying to rescue victims," said an Israeli army spokesman.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called an emergency session of his security cabinet to discuss possible responses to the attacks.

Funerals

Earlier in the day, funerals took place in Gaza of four Palestinians killed in Israeli helicopter attacks on Tuesday night.

Israel said that the men were behind repeated attacks on a Jewish settlement.

The men were buried in a cemetery on the edge of the Khan Yunis refugee camp, only metres from where they were killed.

Israeli Apache helicopters had targeted a small group of people the Israeli army said was responsible for attacks on a neighbouring Jewish settlement, killing two men.

All four men killed belonged to the Abu Rish faction, an armed group affiliated to Fatah.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Orla Guerin
"Calm seems to be absolutely beyond reach"
Dr Dore Gold, Israeli Government advisor
"Clearly Yasser Arafat is responsible"
Marwan Kanafani, Yasser Arafat's spokesman
"The situation is deteriorating in a very dangerous way"
See also:

11 Dec 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Peace process at dead end
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