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Palestinians kill four in attack on Israeli settlement

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Palestinian gunmen disguised as soldiers slipped into an Israeli settlement in the West Bank on Saturday and went from house to house, shooting residents in their bedrooms and killing four people, including a 5-year-old girl, the army said.

One or more attackers cut through the defensive perimeter fence of the Adora settlement, west of Hebron, entered a house and shot a couple in their bedroom, killing a woman. In the upstairs bedroom of the next home, they killed the girl and wounded her mother and two younger brothers, the army and survivors said.

At least seven people were wounded in the attack, which began around 9 a.m. The attackers disappeared, said Lt. Gen. Amos Ben Avraham.

It was the worst attack on a West Bank settlement since Israeli forces punched into the area on March 29 in an operation to hunt down Palestinian militants. The Adora killings ratcheted up tensions after Israel withdrew from several main towns last week and negotiations were progressing to resolve two long standoffs.

Overnight, Israeli troops withdrew from Qalqiliya, a town in the northern West Bank, after a daylong incursion. As it withdrew, the army underlined that it would enter any areas "it feels necessary in order to thwart terrorist activity."

After the Adora attack, Israeli troops launched a large-scale manhunt in the Hebron region on Saturday, searching Taffuh, the closest Palestinian village. In Hebron, Palestinian security officers abandoned their buildings, expecting an Israeli reprisal.

Israeli troops conducted a house-to-house search in Adora, fearing that at least one gunman may be hiding and holding hostages. But they found no one.

Many of the settlers were attending Sabbath prayers in the synagogue when the attack began. Some rushed to the area to confront the infiltrators but were unable to find them, Avraham said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. It came several days after Israeli forces killed Marwan Zalloum, the Hebron leader of the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, a militia linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.