Striking inside Israel for the first time since self-rule began in Gaza and Jericho, Islamic militants stabbed to death two Israeli construction workers.
The attack comes at a sensitive time, as agreements are being worked out to give Palestinians control over education, health and welfare throughout the West Bank.The Islamic group Izzedine al-Qassem Brigades, the military arm of Hamas, faxed a leaflet to The Associated Press on Saturday saying it carried out the attack to mark the six-month anniversary of the Hebron mosque massacre. On Feb. 25 an Israeli settler opened fire on Muslims praying, killing 30.
The leaflet said it was the third act of revenge by Hamas and two more would follow before the end of the year. Fourteen Israelis died in two bus bombs in April claimed by the group.
The two stabbed men bring to 11 the number of Israelis slain by opponents of the peace talks since the Palestinians took control of the Gaza Strip and West Bank town of Jericho in May. Five died in areas under Palestinian control. In the same period, 15 Palestinians were killed.
The bodies of Gil Revach, 22, of Bat Yam and Shlomo Kapach, 24, of Holon were found by relatives searching for the men Friday night after they failed to return home from work.
The two, who recently completed compulsory military service, were killed at a construction site in Ramle - a town near Tel Aviv - where they had been installing elevators. A knife was found nearby, Israel radio said.
The leaflet said the attackers had scrawled the word "Hamas" on a cigarette pack and placed it on the chest of one of the victims.
"The Izzedine al-Qassem Brigades announce their responsibility for the knife attack . . . that resulted in the death of the two," the leaflet said.
Shlomo Aronishki, commander of the central police district, said no arrests were made but that police were looking for workers from the occupied territories.
The radio said that 40 Palestinians in the area were detained for not having work permits, but none were suspects in the slayings.
After an Israeli was killed in an ambush in Gaza earlier this month, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin warned that Israel would delay implementing agreements to expand self-rule if the Palestinian government failed to rein in extremists.