JERUSALEM, ISRAEL — A Palestinian gunman killed two people and injured more than 40 when he opened fire on a bus at a crowded Jerusalem intersection Sunday, prompting the Israeli government to reconsider a planned withdrawal from the West Bank.
The attacker, identified by police as a member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, was shot and killed at the scene.
Coming only hours after the Israeli cabinet decided to withdraw from Qalqilya and three other West Bank towns, the attack could mean the Israeli troops who entered the areas two weeks ago to pursue Palestinian militants will stay after all. But Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said he thought the withdrawal would go ahead.
Witnesses said the gunman opened fire on the No. 25 city bus at an intersection in the French Hill section of northeastern Jerusalem, which is near several Palestinian villages and neighborhoods.
He in turn was shot by a civilian, a border guard and a soldier, police said.
"He was standing there and shooting [into the right side of the bus]," the civilian shooter, who identified himself only as Marcus, told Israeli radio. "I got out of the car. I fired. I emptied an entire clip. He fell. Then two soldiers came and I showed them where he was and they shot him with their M-16s," he said.
Marcus said he himself was a civilian living in a West Bank settlement.
Jerusalem Police Chief Mickey Levy confirmed that a border guard and a soldier fired on the attacker.
"The response was very quick and they prevented further wounding of innocent people," he said.
Two other men were seen running from the scene, but were not believed to be carrying weapons and may be innocent, Levy said. A police helicopter was searching the area anyway, and Israeli forces sealed off the Palestinian village of Anata and other nearby Palestinian villages, Levy said.
Two people died at different area hospitals, which were treating more than 40 people, hospital officials said. At least five of the injured had serious injuries.
Levy told reporters at the scene the attacker was a known, 34-year-old member of Islamic Jihad and had lived in the West Bank town of Hebron.
The intersection, which had a trail of blood running through it, was cordoned off at the start of the busy afternoon rush-hour as police swarmed the area. Some teenage girls sobbed nearby as medical officials attended to them. Backpacks were strewn on the ground near the shattered glass from the bus windows.
Dore Gold, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said the pullout would have to be reassessed.
"Israeli intelligence has warned if it precipitously redeploys, a wave of terrorism will hit Israel proper," Gold told Israel radio. "Today it has begun to seep in already."
But Peres said he believed that if calm was maintained in the West Bank areas, the pullout would go ahead, starting with Qalqilya.
"If the Palestinians can control security there, we have no reason to sit there," he told Israel Channel 2.
Israel pulled out of Bethlehem and Beit Jalla on Oct. 28, even after Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli soldier in a drive-by shooting and sprayed a northern Israeli bus stop with gunfire, killing four people.
Cabinet Secretary Gideon Saar said that Sharon concluded the incursions had been very successful and could be ended, Saar said. He said the army had been ordered to prepare a plan to withdraw in stages.
He stressed that Israel's demands that the Palestinians arrest militants remain, and that the withdrawals wouldn't take place if Israel received any specific warnings of attacks from the areas.
Israel launched incursions into six West Bank towns following the Oct. 17 assassination of Israel's ultranationalist tourism minister, Rehavam Zeevi, by Palestinian militants.
Also Sunday, Israeli forces shot surface-to-surface missiles toward three factories in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian security officials and witnesses said.
The Israeli army said the plants produced mortar shells and that 30 mortar shells had been fired toward Jewish settlements in the area in recent days.
Palestinian witnesses denied shells were produced at the factories, saying that machines to cut wood and marble were made at the facilities.
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