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West Bank Shooting Threatens Fragile Israeli-Palestinian Cease-Fire


Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an Israeli military post, near a religious shrine in the West Bank city, Hebron, Monday, wounding two border policemen and threatening a fragile Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire.

The army says the gunmen opened fire at troops guarding the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a shrine revered by both Muslims and Jews.

Witnesses say gunmen fired dozens of shots in Monday's attack. Three weeks ago in the city, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian who the army said tried to stab a soldier.

Hebron is often a flash point for violence. Some 400 to 500 Jewish settlers, protected by Israeli soldiers, live among a Palestinian population in the city of some 120,000.

The attack threatens a fragile ceasefire agreed to last month between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, at a meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea resort, Sharm el Sheikh.

Israel has been calling on Mr. Abbas to crackdown on those militant groups who do not abide by the ceasefire.

For his part, Mr. Abbas has said a promised Israeli pullback from Palestinian cities in the West Bank will be vital in his efforts to restore calm. Israel had planned to turn over several West Bank towns to Palestinian security forces, but froze the handover after a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on February 25, that killed five Israelis and wounded dozens more.

Mr. Abbas is expected to meet Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to discuss the possible handover of West Bank towns. Some Palestinian officials also say Israel will hand over Tulkarem, Tuesday, removing most, if not all the checkpoints around the town.

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