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A 15-year-old schoolboy was killed yesterday in a shooting attack on his school bus that police believe was carried out by other students due to a dispute over a girl.

The bus was carrying Amjad Shawahana and several dozen classmates home from the Amal high school in Taibeh when it ran into an ambush. Several assailants were lying in wait and opened fire at the bus with an automatic weapon. Shawahana was mortally wounded and died in hospital soon afterward. Another student was lightly wounded.

The attack took place at about 2:30 P.M., as the bus was approaching the northern entrance of Kafr Qasem after previously dropping off students in Jaljulya and Kafr Bara. As the bus passed an olive grove, a barrage of shots was fired at it from an automatic weapon. Several bullets penetrated the bus windows, causing them to shatter, and one hit Shawahana.

The bus driver, who was unhurt, continued driving until he reached Kafr Qasem's main clinic, which administered first aid and arranged to have Shawahana transported to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. Shortly after he arrived there, however, doctors pronounced him dead.

A large force of policemen was sent to Kafr Qasem to comb the area for the killers. They found several bullet casings, but the killers had fled, taking their gun with them. Based on testimony taken from the students, police believe the background to the shooting was a quarrel between two groups of teens, one from Jaljulya and one from Kafr Qasem, apparently over a romantic affair. The two groups had been bristling at each other in school for several days, and the tension had erupted into a brawl.

The students also gave the police the names of the fellow students whom they thought might have been involved in the shooting. Yesterday evening, police located three suspects at their homes in Jaljulya and detained them for questioning.

"This [case] involves shooting from a planned ambush, a barrage fired indiscriminately at a bus full of children, apparently in order to settle scores among the students," a senior Central District police officer said. "If the background is indeed that garden-variety dispute [that witnesses described], then this is an extreme and exceptional incident - especially given that the victims are innocent students hurt by indiscriminate fire."

For teens to shoot "a bus full of children is very exceptional and ought to concern every one of us," added another Central District officer.

Kafr Qasem Mayor Nader Sarsur convened an emergency meeting of dignitaries from his town and other nearby towns last night to discuss the "catastrophe."

"This ought to raise a warning flag for all of us, from parents to law enforcement agencies," he said, urging the latter to crack down on the proliferation of illegal weapons. He also called a two-day strike as a sign of mourning.