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Palestinian Gunmen Kill Four Israelis in West Bank
Tue May 28, 5:49 PM ET

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A Palestinian gunman went on a shooting spree at a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, killing three Israeli youngsters in a religious seminary before a settler shot him dead.

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In a separate incident hours earlier on Tuesday, a Palestinian killed an Israeli resident of Jerusalem and wounded his cousin in a shooting attack on their car on a West Bank road.

As the focus of mounting bloodshed shifted from suicide bombings in Israel to violence in the West Bank -- where the army killed a Palestinian in a raid on the city of Jenin -- the United States pondered changing its peacemaking policy.

A U.S. official, speaking to reporters during a visit to Italy by President Bush (news - web sites), raised the possibility that Washington would set a negotiating timetable for Israel and the Palestinians.

Bush has said in the past that a timeframe for talks was up to the parties themselves.

In the Jewish settlement of Itamar near the West Bank city of Nablus, a Palestinian gunman sprayed gunfire at Israeli teenagers studying at a seminary, witnesses said.

"There are three Israeli dead and two wounded," Benzi Lieberman, a settler official, told Army Radio. "The terrorist was killed by one of the settlers."

Medic Avi Cohen said on Israel Radio: "(The gunman) fired at whoever he saw."

U.S. ENVOYS SET TO VISIT MIDDLE EAST

Looking at enemies beyond the West Bank, Israel launched its Ofek-5 spy satellite into orbit, giving its intelligence services an eye in the sky on perceived ballistic missile threats from Iran and Iraq.

In Rome, a U.S. official said Washington was consulting with "friends and allies" on its next moves in trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after 20 months of violence.

"We're talking about how to chart the way forward, and when we have something to say publicly, we will. The idea is, at some point, to lay out how we move the way forward to a political settlement."

Assistant Secretary of State William Burns was headed for the Middle East, and CIA (news - web sites) director George Tenet was expected to follow later this week, possibly on Friday.

The State Department said Burns would begin his tour in Egypt and then hold talks with the Israelis and Palestinians before heading to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon.

"When we get reports back from Mr. Tenet and ambassador Burns, and when we consult with a lot of other people, we will start to integrate all this information and see what next steps should be taken, keeping in mind that we are committed to a meeting some time in the summer," Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) told reporters in Rome.

The United States, Russia, the European Union (news - web sites) and the United Nations (news - web sites) have backed an international conference on the Middle East, which Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) has said must not take any decisions on core peace issues.

Powell said the threads of humanitarian relief, economic development, restructuring of the Palestinian Authority (news - web sites) and the role of moderate Arabs would intertwine at that meeting.

"We will also look at political options to see what the two parties believe is possible at this time," Powell said.

ISRAEL SURROUNDS MILITANT'S HOUSE

In a late-night Israeli operation, troops surrounded the house of Hassan Yousef, a top leader of the militant Hamas movement in the West Bank city of Ramallah, but he was not at home, witnesses said.

Earlier in Jenin, Israeli forces captured Rami Awad, another Hamas leader, and six other wanted Palestinians, before leaving at midday.

Another eight suspected militants were detained in assaults in other parts of the West Bank.

The rolling raids have failed to stem a new wave of suicide attacks in Israel, where bombers have killed 22 people since Israeli leaders earlier this month declared an end to a crushing six-week sweep for militants in the West Bank.

A suicide bombing on Monday killed a baby and her grandmother at a cafe in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv.

"Without a doubt, Operation Defensive Shield hit the terrorist infrastructure hard, but it is clear motivation has risen as a result and more suicide bombers have been created," Deputy Defense Minister Dalia Rabin-Pelossof told Channel One television.

At least 1,375 Palestinians and 486 Israelis have been killed since a Palestinian uprising against occupation erupted in September 2000.

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