Israeli security troops hunting for off-duty policemans killer

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JERUSALEM — Security forces continued their search for the Palestinian gunman who killed an off-duty Israeli police officer and wounded his wife in a shooting Sunday in the West Bank village of Bidya.

The attack was the second in two weeks that Israeli officials suspect was carried out by Palestinian gunmen.

In Sunday's attack, Meir Alush, his wife, Nitza, and their son, about 18 months old, had stopped at a toy store in Bidya, a village that straddles the trans-Samaria highway.

A lone gunman followed them in and opened fire at close range, critically wounding Meir Alush and moderately wounding his wife before fleeing.

Nitza Alush, who was injured in the chest, ran out of the store with her baby and flagged down a car. She was taken to Beilinson Hospital near Tel Aviv, where her condition was described as satisfactory.

The child was not hurt.

Security guards summoned from the nearby Jewish town of Ariel, where the couple lived, found Meir Alush in critical condition in the store. He later died of his wounds.

A curfew was imposed on the village, and the Israeli army said it would take two steps.

"The first is to try to catch the terrorist," said the head of the army's Central Command, Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan. "At the same time, we are going to close all the shops along this road in order to provide Israelis with the possibility to move freely and feel safe here."

Thousands of Israelis who live in the area travel daily on that road.

Israeli officials believe that Sunday's attack could have been carried out by a member of a terrorist cell operating in the Nablus area. No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the incident.

About a week ago, an Israeli couple returning to their home in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba was killed in a drive-by shooting inside Israel. A Hebron-based cell of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was reported to have been responsible.

Israeli security forces gave information to their Palestinian counterparts to help search for the gunman who carried out Sunday's attack.