Two Israeli policemen were shot dead in an attack near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, as they were travelling in the Jordan valley, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
AFP- Two Israeli policemen were shot dead in an attack on Sunday near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
"Two policemen who were travelling in the Jordan Valley were shot dead. According to the initial investigation it is an attack," Rosenfeld told AFP.
He said the attack took place near the Jewish settlement of Massua in the northern Jordan Valley.
An anonymous caller claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the "Imad Mughniyeh Group" in a telephone call to AFP.
The group is named after a Hezbollah commander who was killed by a car bomb in Damascus in February 2008 that was blamed on Israel. It denied involvement.
Police and the army sent reinforcements to the scene of the attack and a search began in a bid to track down the assailants, Rosenfeld said.
Haaretz newspaper reported on its website that one policeman was killed on the spot and that the other died of his wounds shortly after emergency services arrived.
Their car was found on Highway 90 which skirts the border with Jordan to the east. Police said the driver lost control when he was hit by gunfire.
The Jordan Valley shares a 70-kilometre (43-mile) border with Jordan and represents a third of the West Bank which has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Some 7,000 settlers live in 30 Jewish settlements there.
Israel has banned Palestinians from using Highway 90 since the start of the second intifada in September 2000.
There are several permanent military checkpoints in the Jordan Valley, and only Palestinian residents and those working in the Jewish settlements have access to the area.
US President Barack Obama has vowed to vigorously pursue peace efforts in the region, and Israeli settlements have long been a key obstacle to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
Middle East peace talks were relaunched at a US conference in November 2007 but made little tangible progress.
The government coalition that hawkish former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to form is expected to be more settler-friendly than the outgoing administration of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Even so, Olmert has repeatedly said that the Jordan Valley must remain under Israeli control, although he has indicated a readiness to pull out of most of the West Bank.
On March 2 the anti-settlement group Peace Now said Israel's housing ministry has plans that would nearly double the number of settlers in the territory.
It gave the estimate in research issued on the day US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Israel on her first trip since taking office.
Peace Now calculates that there are a total of more than 280,000 Israeli settlers now living in some 121 settlements in the West Bank. Another estimated 200,000 live in annexed east Jerusalem.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians who had fled their homes after the creation of Israel in 1948 initially moved to camps in the Jordan Valley before fleeing once more after the West Bank was occupied in 1967.
Date created : 2009-03-15