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Palestinian Gunmen Kill 4 Israeli Settlers in West Bank - 2002-04-27

Israeli officials say they have killed one of the gunmen responsible for the murder of four Israelis, including a child, in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Seven more were wounded in the attack.

The Israeli army says the Palestinian gunman was killed on the West Bank, near the Jewish settlement of Adora, where the Israelis were killed hours earlier.

An army spokeswoman says three gunmen, dressed in Israeli military uniforms, one of them armed with an Israeli machine gun, cut through the settlement's perimeter fence and entered two homes, opening fire on the families inside. She says the gunmen shot one couple while they were still asleep. The wife is dead, the husband seriously wounded.

In a second home, the gunmen opened fire on a mother and her three children. Five-year-old Danielle Shefi was killed and her two younger brothers were wounded. Israeli police investigating the case say that the mother, Shira Shefi, was also slightly wounded.

Danielle's father Yakov Shefi is in shock at the loss of his daughter. "She's five years old," he said. "And she probably looked the terrorist in the eye, she didn't understand what he was doing there, she probably thought he was a soldier, she looked him in the eye, and... and..."

An Israeli military spokeswoman says that an intensive manhunt for the two other assailants is continuing in the surrounding area, near the volatile West Bank city of Hebron.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mike Sofer expressed horror at another attack on Jewish civilians.

"Today as you know is the Shabbat, Saturday, holy Sabbath day of rest, and here they were going round doing the things one does on a Sabbath and here they were butchered by a criminal of the worst order," he said.

This latest attack comes as the Israeli military is in the fourth week of an anti-terror operation in the West Bank, aimed at putting an end to attacks against civilians.

It also comes hours after the United Nations agreed to delay by one day the arrival of a fact-finding team, which is to investigate the events surrounding a battle earlier this month between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops in the Jenin refugee camp.

The U.N. team is now expected to arrive in the region late Sunday.

Israeli cabinet members are scheduled to vote on whether or not to cooperate with the investigation at their regular Sunday morning meeting.

Israeli officials have expressed concern that the U.N. team will focus only on the destruction in Jenin, and ignore Israel's charge that the camp was a haven for terrorists.

Israel claims 23 Palestinian suicide bombers from the Jenin camp killed dozens of Israelis.

Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has agreed to re-open negotiations regarding the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. About 200 Palestinians, including some gunmen, have been hiding there for more than three weeks. They are surrounded by Israeli tanks and troops. So far negotiations to end the siege have been unsuccessful.