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One policeman was killed and four other Israelis were wounded in two separate attacks in the Jerusalem area last night.

In the first incident, at a checkpoint in the Shoafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the border policemen stationed at the checkpoint, mortally wounding one policeman and seriously wounding a policewoman. Rescue services tried to save the officer, but he died soon afterward.

The policemen did not manage to return fire, and the assailant or assailants - it is still not clear how many there were - fled. The police began a manhunt, aided by a helicopter, but as of press time, had not discovered any clues.

The Palestinian news agency Maan said that a previously unknown organization, the Return and Struggle Brigades, had claimed responsibility for the attack. The organization said it was affiliated with Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.

In the second incident, which occurred at about the same time, two Palestinians armed with knives and a pistol infiltrated the Mekor Haim yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Etzion, located in the Etzion bloc not far from Jerusalem. They entered a library and attacked the students and their counselors, who fought back. During the battle, one student was moderately wounded and two of the counselors were lightly wounded.

One of the counselors, Rafael Singer, managed to grab the pistol from the terrorist and shot the intruders, killing them both. The wounded were evacuated to Hadassah Hospital, Ein Karem in Jerusalem for treatment.

Settlement residents said it was fortunate that the terrorists had targeted the library rather than the study hall, where hundreds of students were learning.

The Israel Defense Forces opened an investigation into the incident in an effort to determine how the terrorists penetrated the settlement's defenses and enter the yeshiva. Some witnesses said the terrorists were wearing soldiers' uniforms; others said they were wearing the uniforms of a security company whose guards work at the settlement.

Yesterday's incidents occurred just a few days after the IDF Central Command proudly announced a sharp decline in fatalities from Palestinian terror in 2007. The IDF attributed this decline in large part to the army's almost nightly operations in West Bank cities, which have led to the arrest of numerous terrorists and forced others into hiding.

The last fatal terror attack was on December 28, when Palestinian gunmen shot and killed two off-duty soldiers who were hiking in the southern West Bank.