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4 Israelis, 4 Palestinians Die on Eve of Peace : Mideast: Israeli officials describe attacks as attempt to sabotage their government's dialogue with PLO.


JERUSALEM — Four Israelis were killed Sunday as hard-line Palestinians opposed to the Middle East peace process launched a wave of attacks on the eve of the signing in Washington of an agreement that will give Palestinians self-government.

Four Palestinians also died in the incidents, all of which occurred in or near the Gaza Strip.

The violence came as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his foreign minister, Shimon Peres, departed from Tel Aviv airport for Washington.

Senior Israeli officials described the attacks as an attempt to sabotage their government's dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

National Police Commissioner Rafi Peled demanded a renewal of the policy of sealing off the occupied territories as security forces braced for more violence today.

"The incidents today emphasize that hatred and brutality of (the extremists) trying to sabotage any dialogue that would put an end to the bloodshed," said Police Minister Moshe Shahal, who with Rabin and Peres out of the country serves as acting prime minister.

The Palestinian hard-liners believe the agreement, negotiated by PLO leader Yasser Arafat, is a sellout to their cause because it falls short of their dream of an independent state.

Israeli officials said the worst incident occurred Sunday morning east of Gaza City when two or three Palestinians fired on an army jeep as it moved along an agricultural road on a routine patrol.

As one of the soldiers returned fire, the jeep crashed into the wall of a mosque, killing all three men. The gunmen reportedly fled after stealing the soldiers' weapons.

Two extremist groups claimed responsibility for the attack, although a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces said a pamphlet produced by the Islamic Resistance Movement, known as Hamas, was left at the scene.

A few hours later, a Palestinian terrorist with grenades and other explosives strapped to his body and armed with a knife boarded a civilian bus traveling in Israel along the coast between Ashdod and Ashkelon.

According to witnesses, the terrorist stabbed the driver and two soldiers before being shot to death by a reserve soldier who was on the bus. The driver managed to bring the bus to a halt and open the door before he collapsed and died. The two other victims were treated for superficial wounds.

Two other Palestinians also reportedly died in Gaza--one when a grenade he was carrying exploded as he tried to escape Israeli soldiers chasing him, and, according to Palestinian journalists in Gaza, a second was run over by an Israeli military vehicle.

The death toll would have been higher if a car loaded with gasoline cans and gas canisters had exploded as planned near the southern entrance to the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian driver crashed the car into a bus loaded with Israeli soldiers and local prison authority employees, killing himself but causing only slight injuries to two passengers.

Elsewhere, however, Palestinians in East Jerusalem demonstrated in favor of the agreement, while a few miles away hundreds of Israeli women stood across the street from Rabin's offices and also expressed their support for the accord.

TV Coverage

ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN plan live coverage of the signing ceremony at 8 a.m. PDT on the South Lawn of the White House.

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