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Fatah Faction Claimes Responsibility for Killing Israeli Guards

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction has claimed responsibility for the killing of two Israeli security guards patrolling the construction of a security barrier. The shootings occurred despite calls by the Palestinian leadership for a new cease-fire with Israel. The Jenin Martyrs' Brigades, a Fatah militia group, says it was behind the fatal shooting of the two Israeli security guards.

Fatah is the dominant faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization and is headed by Mr. Arafat.

The militia carried out the attack despite calls from Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia for all armed groups to enter into a truce before his first meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon.

A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Jonathan Peled, says such attacks only serve to undermine efforts to implement the international Road Map to Peace plan.

"We hear about a new Palestinian leadership," said Mr. Peled. "We hear about an intention to move ahead with the Road Map. But here we are on that first line of that first phase of the Road Map, which requires the Palestinian leadership to stop terrorists, to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and still we do not see it happening."

The shootings took place in the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem's walled Old City, where the guards were patrolling construction of a new security barrier. Israeli forces imposed a curfew on the area and the nearby Palestinian village of Abu Dis and continued searches for the attackers.

There is rising Palestinian anger against the security barrier, which Israel says is necessary to protect its citizens from attacks. The Palestinian leadership says the project is an attempt to seize more land in the West Bank and unilaterally establish the borders of a future Palestinian state.

Israel insists the barrier can be dismantled later, when and if a permanent peace treaty is reached with the Palestinians.