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Suspected Palestinian Militant Kills 3 Israelis - 2001-10-04

Israeli police say a suspected Palestinian militant, dressed in a military uniform, opened fire in the central city of Afula, killing three Israelis and wounding at least 13 others.

Police say the suspected Palestinian gunman, disguised as an Israeli soldier, opened fire on a crowd of people at the central bus station in Afula.

Reports say the man arrived at the station and immediately began firing in all directions in what authorities are calling an act of terror.

The assailant, wearing a red beret and firing an M-16 automatic rifle, emptied an entire magazine of ammunition before being shot dead by police. Police found in his pocket a letter, apparently a suicide note, written in Arabic and an orange identity card of the type carried by Palestinian residents in the territories.

Afula's central bus station has been the scene of several terrorist attacks by Islamic militants in recent years. The town is close to the West Bank.

The violence came as Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met in Jerusalem with Palestinian Parliament Speaker Ahmed Qureia and negotiator Saeb Erekat. The meeting was designed to stabilize a shaky cease-fire after an outburst of violence. Mr. Erekat says the session was marked by mutual recriminations and ended without any positive result.

Both sides are accusing each other of violating the cease-fire. Israel wants the Palestinians to arrest militants it says are involved in terrorist acts. The Palestinians are demanding that Israel pull its troops back and ease its tight closure on the West Bank and Gaza.

Earlier this week two Palestinian gunmen killed two Israelis during an attack on a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip. Israeli soldiers killed the gunmen and six other Palestinians after the raid.

The violence continued despite the truce agreement worked out last week by Foreign Minister Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

U.S. officials have been urging both sides to bring calm to the region as America recruits Arab and Islamic states into an anti-terror coalition after the attacks on New York and Washington.

Nearly 850 people, mostly Palestinians, have died since the uprising against Israeli occupation erupted just over one year ago.