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Attack kills 4 Israeli soldiers

Israeli soldiers carry the body of a Palestinian gunman from an army post near the Erez crossing in Gaza.
Israeli soldiers carry the body of a Palestinian gunman from an army post near the Erez crossing in Gaza.

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Three militant Palestinian groups claim joint responsibility for an attack that killed four Israeli soldiers in Gaza. CNN's Jerrold Kessel reports. (June 8)
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Three Palestinian groups claimed responsibility for an attack on an Israeli military checkpoint Sunday in Gaza that killed four Israeli soldiers and injured four others, Israel Defense Forces said.

Palestinian gunmen disguised as Israeli soldiers opened fire on the soldiers, who were patrolling the Erez border crossing in Gaza. The Israeli soldiers returned fire, killing three Palestinian gunmen, the IDF said.

A senior IDF officer in Gaza said the gunmen were traveling with a group of Palestinian laborers on their way to work in Israel, Israel Radio reported.

The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz identified one of the victims as Sgt. Maj. Boaz Emet, 23, of Beit Sha'an. Also identified in the paper as killed in the attack were Sgt. Maj. Udi Ayelet, 38, and Sgt. Maj. Assaf Aberjel, 23, both of Eilat.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades together claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to journalists and in a leaflet distributed in Gaza.

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, is labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. The group's military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and the Israeli military.

Islamic Jihad is a militant group dedicated to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is the militant wing of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. It also is labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

Ra'anan Gissin, senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told CNN that if the Palestinian Authority does not take steps to quickly rein in the terrorist groups, Israel will.

Israeli source: Palestinian gunman kills Israeli at holy site

Later Sunday, an Israeli man died after being shot near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, an Israeli source said. Israeli forces returned fire, killing two Palestinian gunmen, the source said.

The shooting emanated from the old part of Hebron known as Qasba, the police added. The tomb is considered a holy site by Jews and Muslims.

In a separate incident earlier Sunday, an Israeli border policeman guarding the tomb was moderately wounded when a Palestinian gunman opened fire, the IDF said.

It was not clear who was responsible for the attacks in Hebron, which came just days after Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, popularly known as Abu Mazen, renounced the Palestinian armed intifada during a summit with President Bush and Sharon in Aqaba, Jordan.

The summit followed talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, with Abbas, Bush and Arab leaders. A main topic at the summits was the so-called road map aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establishing an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

Radical Palestinian factions pledged Saturday night to continue their armed intifada against Israel.

Hamas spokesman Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi said Sunday that the attack in Gaza proved that point.

"We are all in the trench of resistance. We are all against surrender in front of the aggression of Israelis. We are all saying that resistance will continue, despite the summit of Al-Aqaba, Sharm el-Sheikh, saying that we are all against what the summit said to Palestinians -- so it means that resistance will continue," al-Rantissi said.

Gissin said Sunday's attacks showed that Palestinians were "stepping up terrorist activities."

"When no real steps are taken to stop terrorist activity ... when no real action is being taken ... it leaves us with no other choice but to take the necessary steps in order to stop these terrorist activities," Gissin said.

He also said Israel would honor pledges made at Aqaba, including the removal of unauthorized outposts, despite Sunday's violence.

When asked if Israel would give Abbas a chance to rein in Palestinian terrorists, Gissin said "we're doing as much as possible to assist and to help."

"The real decision has to be taken by the Palestinian government and the Palestinian prime minister," he said.

Representatives from the Palestinian militant groups -- including Hamas, which on Friday halted talks with Abbas -- met Saturday night in Gaza City, and plan to meet again Monday to discuss how to approach their dealings with the prime minister, Palestinian sources told CNN.

CNN has learned Abbas had planned to travel to Gaza in an effort to persuade the groups to pressure Hamas to restart those talks, but postponed the trip after Sunday's attack.

CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.

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