Jerusalem: Palestinian gunmen opened fire Tuesday on an Israeli car in the West Bank and killed four passengers on the eve of a new round of Mideast peace talks in Washington. The Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility.
Assailants firing from a passing car riddled the vehicle with bullets as it traveled near Hebron — a volatile city that has been a flash point of violence in the past. Some 500 ultranationalist Jewish settlers live in heavily fortified enclaves in the city amid more than 100,000 Palestinians.
One of the victims was pregnant, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. Israel`s national rescue service said the victims were two men and two women, and Israeli media said everyone in the car was killed.
Video broadcast live on Israel TV late Tuesday showed a white Subaru station wagon standing at an angle at the side of a road, its windows shot out and its doors dotted with bullet holes. The car was flanked by army and police vehicles and dozens of soldiers.
The attackers fled and Israeli forces set up roadblocks and carried out searches to try to catch them.
About 3,000 people joined a rally in Gaza to celebrate the attack. Hamas military wing spokesman Abu Obeida was among them and told The Associated Press: "The Qassam Brigades announces its full responsibility for the heroic operation in Hebron."
Upon arriving in Washington for this week`s talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack and said "terror will not determine Israel`s borders or the future of the settlements." Borders and the fate of Jewish settlements on land Palestinians want for a future state are key issues in the negotiations.
President Barack Obama hopes to forge a peace agreement within one year.
The White House on Tuesday condemned the attack and press secretary Robert Gibbs called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. He said the attack, coming on the eve of a new round of talks, shows how far the enemies of peace will go to try to block progress.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was already in Washington meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton when the attack took place.