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Attacker kills 2 in Jewish settlement

Shooting of man, infant dashes hopes for peaceful holiday

JERUSALEM -- As Israelis began celebrating the Jewish New Year, a Palestinian gunman infiltrated a Jewish settlement in the West Bank last night and killed two people, including a baby girl, before soldiers fatally shot the attacker, Israel Army Radio reported.

Despite heavy security, the assailant managed to slip into the settlement of Negahot, near the city of Hebron, and knock on the door of a private home, where the family inside was sitting down to a New Year's dinner about 9 p.m., according to radio reports.

A 30-year-old guest answered the door and was gunned down, Israeli radio said. The owner of the house returned fire. The gunman fled, but shot off a few more rounds, which killed the 7-month-old girl and wounded the father and another person.

Israeli soldiers who rushed to the scene killed the gunman, then combed the area for would-be attackers, radio reports said.

There was no claim of responsibility late yesterday by any of the Palestinian militant groups that have committed most of the attacks on Israelis during the 3-year-old Palestinian uprising.

The attack in Negahot occurred hard on the heels of a call by the United States and its partners for Israel and the Palestinians to do more "immediately and simultaneously" to address each other's concerns, but emphasized that the cycle of violence must first end.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed alarm at the growing violence and the diplomatic impasse in the so-called "road map" toward peace.

"It seems to me that bold steps . . . are now necessary to salvage peace. Small steps have not worked. They are unlikely to work in the future," he said in a statement.

Yesterday's shooting shattered a brief period of uncharacteristic calm for Israelis, who were preparing for the Jewish holiday season starting with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which began last night.

"The Palestinians have started the Jewish New Year with another bloody terrorist attack," said government spokesman David Baker, according to the Haaretz newspaper. "It's obvious that they've taken a New Year's resolution to continue with their trail of terror against Israel."

In three years of fighting, more than 2,400 Palestinians and 800 Israelis have died.

Israeli police have been on peak alert for possible terror attacks over the holidays. Soldiers completely sealed off the West Bank and Gaza on Friday and allowed Palestinians entry into Israel only for humanitarian reasons.

Overnight Thursday, the Israeli army arrested 30 wanted Palestinians in the West Bank city of Ramallah and a suspected member of the Islamic Jihad militant group in the city of Jenin, Israeli radio reported.

The incoming Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, is putting together his Cabinet, which has been more than two weeks in the making. Qureia has been tapped by Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat to succeed Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned from the post earlier this month.

The Israeli government faults Arafat, contending that he encourages terrorism, and says it will not work with any new Palestinian leadership controlled by him. But Qureia has said from the outset that he would form a government only with Arafat's backing.

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