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Middle East: Three Americans Reported Killed In Gaza Bombing

  • Sergei Danilochkin

An American diplomatic convoy was the target today of a bomb attack in the Gaza Strip. Three people died and one was injured when a remote-control bomb was detonated. It is not known if this was a deliberate attack against the U.S. convoy and there have been no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack.

Prague, 15 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Three Americans were killed and at least one wounded today after a remote-controlled bomb exploded near the Erez border crossing in the Gaza Strip.

The attack took place on the outskirts of Beit Lahiya and hit a passing U.S. diplomatic convoy, which was being accompanied by Palestinian police. An armor-plated vehicle used by American diplomats was destroyed by the blast, which dug a large crater in the street.

Israel Radio says the three men killed were security guards assigned to the convoy. The convoy is reported to be from a team monitoring implementation of the road map peace plan.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem says U.S. Middle East envoy John Wolf was not in the convoy.

There have been no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack. Both the Islamic Jihad and Hamas militant groups deny involvement in the attack.

It is not known if this was a deliberate attack against the U.S. convoy. It would be the first attack of its kind against a U.S. target in the Palestinian territories in recent memory.

Palestinian officials, including Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, condemned the bombing. Qurei told journalists today in Ramallah, "We are sorry about so much, sorry about what happened today in Erez against the American diplomats. We condemn it strongly. We send all condolences to the families of those who have been killed there, and we hope for those who are injured that they will recover very soon."

Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said the attack was directed "against the interests of the Palestinian people" and the road map peace plan. He said the victims "had come here at our request. These people were here to help us."

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, called today's attack "unacceptable" and urged the Palestinian authorities to stop terrorism.

Qurei said an investigation will be launched into the attack.

"We will investigate, from our side, this [bombing], and we condemn it from wherever it comes and we will investigate the case and we will see," Qurei said.

Reports say U.S. security officials investigating the bombing were forced to leave the scene after Palestinian youths threw rocks at them.