Palestinians Kill Israeli Policemen near Hevron

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HEVRON HILLS, Israel - Palestinian gunmen opened fire on four Israeli policemen Monday morning as they traveled along Route 60 near the Arab village of al-Fawar, about six miles southwest of Kiryat Arba in the southern Hevron Hills.

Two officers, one in critical and one in serious condition, were airlifted to Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital and Soroka Hospital in Beersheva. 

Command Sgt. Maj. Yehoshua Sofer, 39, succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. 

Both officers were shot in the chest, according to Magen David Adom paramedics at the scene of the attack. A third officer sustained less serious gunshot wounds and a fourth was lightly injured by shrapnel.

The al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades, the "armed wing" of the Palestinian Authority's Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for the shooting attack.

The officers were on their way to Jerusalem from Beersheva in the south.

The attack took place six miles from the Dahariya crossing, where the Israel Defense Forces removed a checkpoint three weeks ago.

Yesha Council Director Naftali Bennett said Monday's attack was a sobering reminder of the ongoing terror threat in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

"This attack shows that the resolve of terrorists to destroy any sense of peace and tranquility in these areas remains unabated," Bennett said.

"This brutal act is a clear indicator to the Israeli authorities that we need to reinforce policies that will best protect our citizens and our security services against all acts of terror," he said.

Bennett extended condolences to the family of the policeman who was killed and wished the injured officers a speedy recovery.

Police Chief David Cohen arrived at the scene where large police and IDF forces began setting up roadblocks and searching for the gunmen.

IDF officers instructed residents of Otniel and Beit Hagai, two nearby Jewish communities, to stay inside until troops finished searching the area.

Otniel community spokesman Yehuda Glick said opening the checkpoint paved the way for the attack.

"Those who opened the Dahariya roadblock only three weeks ago, knowing the place served as a shelter for terrorists, should not be suprised that the terrorists took advantage of their innocence," Glick said.

In December 2009, Palestinians shot Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, 40, killing him with a gunshot wound to the head as he traveled to his home in the Samarian community of Shavei Shomron.

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