JERUSALEM – Two Palestinian gunmen dressed as seminary students attacked a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on Friday -- the Jewish sabbath -- killing at least two Israelis and injuring six before being shot and killed, police and army officials said.
The gunmen entered a family's home while they were celebrating the sabbath and opened fire, killing a husband and wife, the army said. It was unclear who killed the gunmen, one of whom was wearing an explosives belt, the army said.
The military wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for the settlement attack and in a statement promised more attacks in retaliation for Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The group also took responsibility for Wednesday's suicide bombing in northern Haifa that killed 14 Israelis and one American.
"This retaliation is the beginning of a series of attacks," said the Hamas statement, faxed to The Associated Press office in Jordan.
Palestinians view Jewish settlers as legitimate targets in their struggle for independence.
There is a heavy military presence around the Kiryat Arba settlement, which is near the West Bank city of Hebron. It is considered a hard-line settlement and often has been the target of Palestinian attacks, the last coming Jan. 23 when gunmen killed three Israelis.
In a separate clash Friday night in the nearby Jewish settlement of Nahal Negohot, soldiers said they shot and killed two Palestinian gunmen trying to infiltrate the settlement. One gunman was wearing an explosives belt, which blew up. There were no Israeli casualties.
"Palestinian terrorists continue to attack on the holiest day of the Jewish week," said David Baker, a government spokesman.
The attacks come a week after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new hard-line government was sworn in, promising stepped up strikes against Palestinian militants and settlement development.