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3 Palestinians killed in West Bank shooting

Palestinians take cover during an exchange of fire between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in Hebron Thursday.
Palestinians take cover during an exchange of fire between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in Hebron Thursday.  

HEBRON, West Bank (CNN) -- Three Palestinians, including a 3-month-old boy, were killed and four others were wounded late Thursday in a shooting from one car into another near Hebron, the Palestinian officials said.

The Red Crescent blamed an Israeli settler for the shooting, which occurred as the shooter's car drove by the other. Israeli police confirmed a shooting took place but did not say who was responsible.

Israel Radio said it had received a note from a group calling itself the Committee for Road Safety claiming responsibility for the attack.

The shooting in the tense West Bank set off exchanges of fire between Palestinians and Israeli police and settlers, with at least 10 Palestinians being wounded, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said.

Killed in addition to the infant in the initial shooting were a 20-year-old and a 22-year-old, Red Crescent said. One of them was recently married, and his wife was among the four critically injured in the attack, the society said. All seven victims were from the same family, it said.

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The shooting occurred as the shooter's car drove by that of the Palestinian family.

Israeli police said an air and ground search was being conducted for the shooter's car, which was seen heading in the direction of the Israeli border.

"We hold the Israeli government responsible for this terrorist attack," said a statement issued by Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat. "The settlers usually work under the protection of the Israeli army. We demand their immediate arrest and trial."

A statement from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office said Israel so far was "unable to determine the identity of the perpetrators of this attack and the circumstances surrounding it."

The statement from Sharon's office also condemned "all forms of terror and violence regardless of who committed them. We regret loss of innocent lives. At present an investigation is under way. We will spare no effort to bring the perpetrators to justice."

The Judea and Samaria Council, the main body representing Jewish settlers in the West Bank, issued a statement condemning the shooting and said that if it is proved that settlers were responsible, they should be brought to justice.

The incident followed another Israeli rejection of international monitors in the region. Foreign ministers of the Group of Eight countries, meeting Thursday in Rome, urged third-party observers be allowed to monitor the peace process and halt the escalation of violence.

Palestinian youths carry Hamas flags during an anti-Israel rally in Gaza on Thursday.
Palestinian youths carry Hamas flags during an anti-Israel rally in Gaza on Thursday.  

"Observers or monitors are not acceptable to us for the simple reason that when there are observers deployed here, there has to be observance of the cease-fire, and unfortunately and regrettably I must say that the Palestinian Authority has not observed the cease-fire," said Ra'anan Gissin, an adviser to Sharon.

Erakat, in his statement, said the Palestinians "urge the U.S. and the Europeans to provide international observers immediately."

Earlier in the day, a blast rocked the Israeli coastal city of Netanya injuring one person.

Initially, police said they believed the incident was a criminal act because the bomb seriously injured a man police said had a criminal record. The bomb went off in a garbage bin near the man's parked car.

Later, however, Sharon district police chief Aharon Franco said the size and type of bomb led police to believe it was a terrorist act.

-- CNN's Waffa Munayyer and Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.

• Palestinian National Authority
• Israeli Government
• Palestinian Red Crescent
• Israel Defense Force

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