Hatuel Family Gunned Down on Way to Campaign Against Pullout Plan

A pregnant Israeli woman and her four children were killed yesterday in a shooting attack in the Gaza Strip.

A pregnant Israeli woman and her four children were killed yesterday in a shooting attack in the Gaza Strip.

Tali Hatuel, 34, who was seven months pregnant, and her daughters Hila, 11, Hadar, 9, Roni 7, and Merav, 2, died after their car was attacked on the Kissufim road leading to the Gush Katif settlement bloc.

Another civilian and two soldiers were injured.

The midday attack came as Likud party members voted on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip. Political commentators speculated last night that emotions stirred by the cold-blooded killing of the mother and her children contributed to the overwhelming defeat of Sharon's initiative.

The Hatuel family lived in the Gush Katif settlement. Tali Hatuel was a social worker for the Gaza Coast Regional Council, and had assisted relatives of terror victims.

Gush Katif settlers said the family was on its way to campaign against Sharon's disengagement plan.

The five family members were laid to rest yesterday evening in Ashkelon.

Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-related Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the attack. The Israel Defense Forces later attacked a Hamas radio station in Gaza City, apparently due to the assumption that Hamas was also behind the killings.

The Popular Resistance Committees issued a statement saying the attack was a reprisal for Israel's assassination of Hamas leaders Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi.

The two terrorists reached the Kissufim road from Khan Yunis, and hid for some time before launching their shooting attack. Israeli security officials believe at least one additional militant assisted in the attack by firing at a nearby Israel Defense Forces post in order to distract Israeli soldiers.

A number of vehicles reportedly passed by the two assailants prior to the Hatuel's white Citroen station wagon. The two gunmen fired at these cars, injuring the two soldiers and the civilian. A CNN team reported that it passed by the terrorists just before the Hatuel's car approached the area. The CNN team said it tried unsuccessfully to stop the Citroen.

The Hatuel's car stopped by the side of the road, apparently because Tali was wounded by the assailants. The two gunmen then raced to the car and fired from their Kalashnikov rifles for up to half a minute, before IDF troops arrived. The soldiers shot and killed the terrorists.

Responding to yesterday's attack, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Yuval Steinitz said Israel must continue to wage war against Hamas and the other terror groups. MK Uri Ariel (National Union) called on Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to order security forces to demolish houses on both sides of the Kissufim road.

Likud MK Ehud Yatom said opposition to the plan to evacuate Gush Katif settlements should be stepped up in response to the killing of the Hatuels.