Two Palestinian militants were killed in an ambush Thursday when their car was riddled with gunfire near the volatile West Bank town of Jenin, Palestinian witnesses said. The two militants from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades were driving through Jenin when four gunmen jumped out of a car that had been parked on the side of the road for several hours and shot the men, the witnesses said.
The Israeli army had no immediate comment. Palestinian officials blamed Israel for the killing, which came amid a shaky nine-month cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians. The cease-fire has been repeatedly violated by both sides, though the level of violence remains far lower than it had been before the agreement.
"I want to condemn this Israeli escalation and warn of the serious collapse of the cessation of violence between the two sides," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. "I hope that the Israeli election campaign will not be marked by more Palestinian blood." The militants were in a white Volkswagen traveling toward Jenin, a militant stronghold in the northern West Bank, when gunmen in a white Mercedes truck shot at them, sending their car veering off the road and rolling about 10 feet (three meters) down a slope, according to Mohammed Turkman, who witnessed the attack.
The gunmen got out of their truck, ran down to the car, and shot the militants again, then returned to the truck and drove off, he said. Palestinian security officials identified the slain men as Mohammed Zaid, 18, and Ahmed Abahri, 18, militants with the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militia affiliated with the ruling Fatah party, reports the AP. I.L.