Arab Gunman Opens Fire at Rush Hour, Killing Two in Jerusalem’s French Hill

A terror attack took place here this week as Israel was planning a troop withdrawal from a Palestinian-controlled city in the West Bank.

The attack took place during rush hour Sunday afternoon, when a Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a bus in the French Hill neighborhood in northern Jerusalem.

Two people were killed and dozens of others injured when the gunman sprayed the No. 25 Egged bus with fire from an M-16 automatic rifle.

Police identified one of the dead as Shoshana Ben Yishai, a 16-year-old who immigrated to Israel with her parents from Long Island when she was 5 years old.

Three Israelis — a border policeman, a soldier and a civilian — shot and killed the gunman during the attack.

The gunman was a member of Islamic Jihad from the West Bank city of Hebron, Jerusalem Police Chief Mickey Levy said.

Two Palestinians were seen running from the scene of the attack, prompting a manhunt on suspicion that they may have been accomplices. According to the Jerusalem Post, a video camera at the French Hill junction later revealed that only one terrorist had fired on the bus.

The attack took place hours after Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said at Israel’s weekly Cabinet meeting that Israeli troops would soon withdraw from the West Bank city of Kalkilya.

After the attack, Ben-Eliezer said the withdrawal would soon proceed as planned.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres also said the attack in French Hill would not stand in the way of the Kalkilya withdrawal.

In its biggest operation in areas under Palestinian control since the two sides signed their first interim peace accords in 1993, Israel took up positions last month in and around the largest Palestinian-controlled cities in the West Bank.

The operation — which was criticized by the United States and other Western nations — was launched as part of an effort to crack down on terrorism after the Oct. 17 assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi.

On Oct. 28, Israeli officials decided to withdraw troops from the West Bank city of Bethlehem and the neighboring town of Beit Jalla, despite two Palestinian terror attacks that day in which five Israelis were killed.

Along with Kalkilya, Israeli forces remain in Ramallah, Tulkarm and Jenin.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an interview published Sunday in The Washington Post that he intends to withdraw from the Palestinian-ruled lands once local Palestinian commanders agree to keep the peace.

The issue of the withdrawals came up when Peres and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat met over the weekend at an economic conference in Spain.

Spokesman for the two said they held no formal negotiations when they met on the sidelines of the conference last Friday and Saturday.

The two discussed the timing of Israeli withdrawals from Palestinian-controlled West Bank cities and the need for Palestinian forces to take up security there after the withdrawal, the spokesman said.

In another development, Israeli helicopters fired missiles Sunday at three buildings in the Gaza Strip.

The buildings were used to make mortars that Palestinians had fired over the weekend at Israeli settlements in Gaza, according to the army. A Palestinian security official said the buildings were empty and no one was hurt in the attack.

In other violence, Palestinian gunmen shot and killed an Israeli soldier last Friday night.

Along with killing Staff Sgt. Raz Mintz, 19, of Haifa, the gunmen lightly wounded another soldier in the drive-by shooting at a roadblock north of Beit El.

The Al-Aksa Brigade, which is affiliated with Arafat’s Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack.

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