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Gunman Opens Fire on Crowded Jerusalem Bus, Killing Two Teens

By Mary Curtius

A Palestinian fired an M-16 rifle repeatedly into a crowded bus at a busy intersection here Sunday afternoon, killing two teenagers and wounding dozens of other people before security officers shot him dead.

Despite the attack, Israel pulled its troops out of Kalkilya, one of six Palestinian-controlled West Bank towns Israel swept into last month after a government minister was assassinated.

The withdrawal was completed before dawn today, an army spokesman said. The United States has demanded that Israel pull back from all Palestinian-controlled West Bank territories, known as "Area A." Troops and tanks left Bethlehem and Beit Jala last week, but the Israeli government insisted that the army would leave other towns only if the Palestinians arrested militants and offered security guarantees. "We don't want to remain in Area A," said government spokesman Daniel Seaman, speaking at the scene of Sunday's attack. "But all the evidence is that [Palestinian Authority President Yasser] Arafat is condoning this kind of behavior by Islamic Jihad and Hamas."

The Palestinian Authority condemned the shooting in a statement and ordered its security forces to arrest anyone involved.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his Cabinet on Sunday morning that he had canceled a planned visit to the United States, and a scheduled meeting the next Sunday with President Bush, because of the volatile security situation. Sharon advisor Danny Ayalon said the prime minister fears Israel's pullout from West Bank towns could spark fresh attacks.

Police said the gunman was 24-year-old Khatem Shweiki of the West Bank city of Hebron, whom they described as a "known member" of Islamic Jihad. The radical organization, which has carried out a string of deadly suicide attacks inside Israel, claimed responsibility for the shooting in a leaflet.