Two young Israelis were shot and killed Tuesday at Wadi Kelt, a popular hiking spot located between Jerusalem and Jericho.
Oren Shahor of Ra’anana and Ohad Bachrach of Beit El, both in their 20s, were hiking in the area and had stopped to eat.
They were apparently fired upon from some distance; one was subsequently attacked with a knife as well.
The two victims had been known to be carrying side arms at the time — but these were gone by the time their bodies were found.
Wadi Kelt is one of the most impressive spots in the Judean Desert, about a 20- minute drive from Jerusalem. For years it has been a popular hiking area, particularly for Jerusalemites, but also for other visitors from throughout the country.
Maj. Ilan Biran, the commander of the central region, which includes the West Bank, said the killers were probably members of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement or another militant group opposed to the peace process.
Government sources said the killers were clearly intent on disrupting the peace process at this delicate time — when large Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams are meeting virtually around the clock in an effort to conclude an agreement for implementing the second phase of Palestinian self-rule before a July 25 deadline.
The crime resembled a double killing by terrorists in the same place in October 1993, soon after the Declaration of Principles signing in Washington.
The opposition Likud Party, in a statement, called on the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to postpone further negotiations with the Palestinians because of the killings.