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2 Palestinian Gunmen, 1 Israeli Killed

February 26, 2004

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza early Thursday, killing at least one Israeli before being shot dead, military officials and Israeli radio reported.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militant group linked to Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack. In a phone call to The Associated Press in Gaza, Al-Aqsa identified the gunmen as Ashraf Zakout and Aymen Sahiel.

Palestinian sources reported an intensive exchange of fire that lasted about an hour between the gunmen and soldiers at the crossing point, which thousands of Palestinians use everyday to get to work in Israel.

Israeli radios and a settler spokesman reported that one Israeli had been killed. Initially, they said two other Israelis had been wounded in the attack but later retracted the statement. A rescue service spokesman confirmed no Israelis had been wounded in the attack.

The army has closed down the Erez crossing.

In January, a female suicide bomber killed four Israelis when she blew up in the terminal used by workers to get to Israel.

Since the attack, the army has clamped tight security regulations on the crossing, forcing workers to pass with their hands up and their shirts lifted to make sure they are not armed with explosives.

The security measures cause Palestinians to wait in long lines, and many workers arrive at 2 a.m. to begin their commute to Israel.

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