Hamas murders Israelis in attempt to stop peace discussions


Hamas gunmen shot dead four Israeli settlers on the outskirts of the volatile West Bank city of Hebron tonight in a move that could jeopardise the first face-to-face talks between Israel and the Palestinians for more than 20 months.

The armed wing of the Islamic organisation, which is virulently opposed to the negotiations, claimed responsibility for the "heroic operation" in which its militants attacked a car on a main road close to the city. The army said that the victims were two men and two women, one of whom was pregnant, from a nearby settlement.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said troops were at the scene, evacuating the bodies and searching the area, which was designated a closed military zone.

"The vehicle was sprayed with dozens of bullets," an ambulance worker told Israeli television. "There were numerous shell casings around."

A spokesman for the Qassam Brigades, Hamas's armed wing, was quoted by Reuters as saying that the shooting was "a chain in a series of attacks, some have been executed, and others will follow".

Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, said measures would be taken to prevent further attacks. "We condemn this operation, which goes against Palestinian interests," he said in a statement.

The killings will dent hopes that peace talks, due to start in Washington with a White House dinner tomorrow night, can succeed in bringing a resolution to the conflict.

Hamas always tries to kill Israelis to get Israel to back out of any peace negotiations. Since it is difficult for them to send out human bombs anymore they are going with a Bombay style attack using a rifle against non combatants.


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