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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gunmen Kill 2 Israelis As New Mission Starts

AFULA, Israel -- Two Israelis were killed and at least 14 injured Tuesday in a Palestinian shooting attack in northern Israel, officials said. The attack came as two U.S. mediators held a second day of meetings with Israeli officials, and hours after Israeli troops pulled out of the last West Bank town they held.

Just before noon, at least two Palestinian gunmen dressed as civilians began spraying fire from Kalashnikov submachineguns at Israelis at the central bus station of the town of Afula in northern Israel, police and eyewitnesses said.

"They shot the first person [they encountered] in the head," eyewitness Mordechai Cohen told Israel Radio. One woman approached a gunman from behind and tried to attack him, and he turned around and shot her, said another eyewitness who gave her name as Iris. "It was shocking. It's a mess," she said.

The gunmen proceeded to the nearby open-air market and continued firing before being cornered by Israeli police officers and an army reservist in a parking lot, where they were killed in a firefight, said police spokesman Gil Kleiman. There were unconfirmed reports that another gunman may have escaped.

Kleiman said one Israeli was killed at the scene, and Afula hospital spokeswoman Meirav Moyal said another woman died at the hospital. Officials said another four injured were in serious condition.

The attack came as two U.S. mediators -- Assistant Secretary of State William Burns and retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni -- were holding a second day of meetings with Israeli officials in hopes of ending 14 months of Mideast violence.

"This illustrates the fact that the Palestinian Authority is not doing anything to stop terrorism, and terror activity is going to continue in spite of the efforts made by men of goodwill to stop it," said Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner, reacting to the attack.

Hassan Yosef, an official of the Hamas militant group, did not claim responsibility for the attack, but said it was justified because of an "Israeli escalation" of recent days -- a reference to the killing of a leading Hamas militant Friday. "This is a natural right for Palestinians to defend themselves," he said.

Reuters reported that a group of Israelis filed a complaint in Brussels on Tuesday against Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and various Palestinian organizations, accusing them of crimes against humanity.

The plaintiffs were taking advantage of a controversial 1993 Belgian law that allows the country's courts to prosecute foreigners for human rights violations committed outside Belgium.

Lawyers representing about 30 Israelis filed the complaint with a Belgian examining magistrate, holding Arafat and the groups responsible for a series of attacks including an Aug. 9 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria that killed 16 people.