Two days before the resumption of direct peace talks between Israel and Palestine in Washington, four Israelis were killed in an attack near the West Bank town of Hebron Tuesday and the armed wing of the Islamic Hamas movement claimed responsibility for the shooting.
Four Israelis, including two women, one of them pregnant, were killed Tuesday night when gunmen opened fire at their car at the entrance to the settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, Xinhua said, citing Israeli media reports.
Hamas' armed wing Izeldein al-Qassam Brigades said in a text message sent to the media that it claimed the full responsibility for the "heroic" attack carried out near Hebron.
"The armed operation near Hebron is a natural response to the crimes of the Israeli occupation and its settlers," said the statement of Hamas armed wing. "It is a reiteration that the armed Palestinian resistance is present despite the war to uproot it."
It is the first attack that the Hamas armed wing carried out in the West Bank for six years.
Eyewitnesses in Gaza said hundreds of Hamas supporters took to the streets to celebrate the attack. The demonstrators chanted slogans that praised the attack and slammed the Palestinian decision to go to the direct peace talks with Israel.
The attack was carried out just two days before a summit is held in Washington, sponsored by US President Barack Obama to declare the launch of the direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over permanent status issues.
The talks between the two sides had been frozen since December, 2008, following a series of Israeli large-scale military offensives on the Gaza Strip and the Israeli governments' decisions to expand settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Earlier Tuesday, Hamas movement called on the factions of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to withdraw from the organisation in protest to the PLO executive committee's decision to accept the US invitation to launch direct peace talks with Israel.
Meanwhile, the Bethlehem-based independent Ma'an news agency quoted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as saying that the Jewish settlers are sitting on a land that is not theirs, and their presence on the Palestinian land "is illegal".
"This land is not yours and you know this very well. Settlement will disappear one day," Abbas said.
"The Palestinian leadership is going to Washington because it is convinced and believes in peace and not because it has faced pressures," Abbas said.