Washington: The White House condemned the killing of four Israelis in the West Bank in the "strongest possible terms," warning "enemies of peace" would aim to thwart peace talks opening here Wednesday.
The attack came on the eve of President Barack Obama`s most direct intervention in the Middle East peace moves yet, with meetings with regional leaders Wednesday before direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks begin on Thursday.
"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack today perpetrated by Hamas in which four Israelis were killed in the southern West Bank," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
"We express our condolences to the victims? families and call for the terrorists behind this horrific act to be brought to justice.
"We note that the Palestinian Authority has condemned this attack," said Gibbs, shortly after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas issued a statement from Washington criticizing the assault.
"On the eve of the re-launch of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, this brutal attack underscores how far the enemies of peace will go to try to block progress," Gibbs said.
"It is crucial that the parties persevere, keep moving forward even through difficult times, and continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region that provides security for all peoples."
The four Israelis were shot dead near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba after nightfall in a clear and bloody message from Hamas, which is vehemently opposed to the Middle East peace talks.