Five Israelis killed in bus station attack
Sharon: Effort to 'influence the Israeli electoral campaign'

At least two Palestinian gunmen kill five Israelis at northern Israeli bus station before being shot dead, police say.

Victims of Thursday's shooting in Beit Shean arrive at a hospital.

Ariel Sharon leaves his own polling place -- near his ranch in Sderot, Israel -- after voting in the primary election.
Thursday, November 28, 2002 Posted: 12:52 PM EST (1752 GMT)
BEIT SHEAN, Israel (CNN) -- Two Palestinian gunmen opened fire Thursday at a bus station and adjacent Likud party polling station in Beit Shean, Israel, killing five Israelis, according to police.

Four of the Israelis died at the scene, and a fifth died later of his wounds. The two Palestinians were killed in an exchange of gunfire with Israeli police and soldiers who were at the bus station, Israeli officials said.

At least 36 Israelis were wounded in the terror attack, rescue officials said, four of them seriously.

Police said two Palestinian gunmen drove up to Beit Shean's central bus station and opened fire at people standing at a bus stop. Israeli soldiers at the bus stop returned fire.

The head of the Likud party office said people waiting in line to vote in the party's primary election were wounded by explosions and gunfire. He said there were two explosions followed by about 15 minutes of gunfire.

"Suddenly we heard two loud blasts, probably grenades, and massive shooting, bursts, towards the voters. People ran away," Rafi Ben-Sheetrit told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.

In the primary, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon faces Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Likud party leadership. (Full story)

At a news conference, Sharon charged that "Arab terrorists" are attempting to "influence the Israeli electoral campaign and our very democratic system."

Sharon urged Israeli voters not to be intimidated and to "go vote."

Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the shooting in a call to the Reuters news agency.

The caller said the attack was in revenge for the killing of two militant leaders -- one from Al Aqsa and another from the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas -- in the West Bank city of Jenin on Tuesday. Israel has denied being involved in those deaths.

Palestinian Cabinet member Saeb Erakat condemned the shooting, saying the Palestinian Authority opposes all attacks on civilians. He pleaded for help from the so-called Mideast "quartet" -- the United Nations, United States, Russia and European Union -- to restart peace talks with Israel.

Among the injured were three sons of Knesset member David Levy. One was seriously injured and two were slightly hurt, a family spokesman said. Levy was in Tel Aviv at the time of the shooting.

A number of schools near the scene of the shooting were under a police lockdown.

Beit Shean is in the northern Jordan Valley near the Israel-Jordan border.