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Palestinian Attack on Israeli Settlement Kills 12 - 2002-11-15

At least twelve people are dead, after a Palestinian attack on an Israeli settlement near Hebron. Fifteen people are reported to have been wounded in the attack.

Israeli security officials are describing the shooting as an elaborate ambush.

They say it took place at the start of the Jewish Sabbath, as a group of settlers was walking near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a place sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

Witnesses say a heavy gun battle between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers erupted after the attack. The attack is one of the most serious against Israelis in the city since the Palestinian uprising began more than two years ago.

Many Jews living in the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba walk to the holy site every Friday evening, and the route is heavily guarded by Israeli security forces.

Some 450 Jewish settlers live in Hebron, surrounded by about 130,000 Palestinians. The city was divided under an interim peace deal in 1997.

Last month, Israeli troops pulled out of Hebron, after having re-occupied it and most of the other major Palestinian cities in the West bank, after a crackdown aimed at ending attacks.

Friday's attacks come amid talks between Hamas and Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement on a possible suspension of attacks against Israeli civilians.