JERUSALEM — An unidentified gunman killed four Israelis at a Jewish settlement near the West Bank city of Hebron Tuesday night, just days before the U.S.-sponsored peace summit was set to begin in Washington. The military wing of the Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, claimed responsibility.
The shooting, just after 8 p.m. local time, was the deadliest attack Israel has seen in years.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that four adults were confirmed dead at the scene, in a vehicle that had been sprayed with bullets.
Medics at the scene confirmed that two men and two women, one of them pregnant, had been killed. Their car was traveling on a road just south of the settlement of Hebron.
In a similar attack in June, an Israeli police officer was killed at a highway junction near Hebron.
Israeli police said they're investigating potential links between the two attacks.
The Kiryat Arba Jewish settlement is adjacent to Hebron, one of the biggest Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
A spokesman for the al Qassam brigades, Hamas' armed wing, took credit for the attack in an anonymous message to news agencies.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri defended the attack as a "natural response to the crimes of the occupation." He added that the attack is "proof of a failure of security coordination" between Israel and the Palestinians. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, opposes the peace summit in Washington and isn't taking part.
The Israeli military closed off the scene of the shooting and are working with Palestinian Security Forces to comb the area.
Dozens of teenage settlers gathered on the highway outside where the shooting took place. Several of the teens chanted "Death to Arabs" and vowed to seek retribution for the attack in a policy that's become known as the "price tag."
Speaking to Israeli television, one teenager who identified himself as "Danny" said the attack proves that Israel should hold onto its settlements.
"Israel gives them everything they want, and they — the Arabs there — keep killing us. Our prime minister should look at this from his TV over in Washington, and see the writing on the wall. He needs to give to the settlements, not take away."
(Frenkel is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
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