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Palestinian Snipers Kill Two Israelis Near Hebron Shrine - 2002-12-12

Two Israelis, a man and a woman, were shot dead by Palestinian snipers Thursday, as they approached a holy site in the divided West Bank city of Hebron.

The attack came just hours after six Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in separate incidents in the Gaza Strip. The two Israelis were gunned down in an attack close to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

The shrine, held to be the burial place of Abraham and Sarah, is revered by both Jews and Muslims and is a known flashpoint of violence in the city.

The man and the woman were approaching the site when they were shot at. The woman was killed instantly and the man died of his wounds on the way to a hospital in Jerusalem.

Leaders of the small Jewish community in Hebron said the shooting was the result of Israel's failure to respond to an ambush in November.

Twelve members of the security forces were killed last month by Palestinian snipers as they escorted Jewish worshipers from the Tomb of the Patriarchs to a nearby settlement.

The attack on Thursday near the site followed the disclosure that five unarmed Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops as they tried to cross the security fence in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian officials believe that they may have been workers without permits, who had tried to cross into Israel in search of employment.

Earlier on Thursday, Israeli border police also foiled an attempt by two armed Palestinians to enter a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip.

One of the two suspects who tried to infiltrate the Gush Katif settlement bloc was shot dead. Israelis soldiers found an automatic weapon and several hand grenades on his body.

The other would-be attacker, who also carried an automatic weapon, managed to flee into the nearby Palestinian self-rule area of Khan Younis.