Thursday, Nov 20, 2003
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By Atul Aneja
The firing took place at the Rabin terminal, near Eilat, a Red Sea tourist town in southern Israel, juxtaposed to the Jordanian resort of Aqaba, which is a major port for trade with Iraq.
The attacker had reportedly hidden in the midst of container trucks, which had lined up for crossing along the Jordanian side, before opening fire barely 20 metres away from the Israeli terminal.
The Israeli security personnel killed the assailant. A Jordanian spokesperson described the shooting as an "individual act of a lone gunman".
"We condemn this incident and Jordan's stance is clear against any acts of violence that target civilians," a Government spokesperson said. She added that the gunman was a Jordanian truck driver from the predominantly Palestinian city of Zarqa. Several suspected militants have been arrested on the Jordanian side of the border and the wounded have been taken to hospital in Eilat.
The incident is unlikely to obstruct recent moves to ease tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, analysts say.
As the Palestinian authorities try to re-engage extremist groups Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Israel, on its part has also made a conciliatory statement.
A senior Israeli official said Israel was willing to stop assassinating Palestinian militants, in case Mr. Qurei obtained a ceasefire commitment from the armed groups.
The Israeli assertion could meet a key demand of the extremists who have said that they would hold fire only if Israel halted attacks, under an internationally mediated arrangement.
After holding separate talks with Egyptian intelligence officials and Mr. Qurei, leaders of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were expected to meet Egyptian mediators in Cairo next week.
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