Jerusalem - Eight people were killed and at least 30 wounded when Palestinian gunmen ambushed a bus travelling from Tel Aviv to the Jewish settlement of Immanuel in the northern West Bank on Wednesday.

Witnesses and medics at the scene said a bomb was detonated as the bus turned a corner near the entrance to the settlement. Seconds later, Palestinian gunmen sprayed the bus and three civilian cars with heavy machineguns and tossed grenades.

Israeli police and security officials said eight people were killed in the attack, many of them passengers on the bus. Others were reportedly trapped in the wreckage of the bus and in nearby cars damaged in the attack.

Ambulance officials said five people were critically wounded in the attack. Rescue helicopters were sent to bring the wounded to Tel Aviv area hospitals.

An Army Radio reporter at the scene said he saw the body of one of the Palestinian gunman, holding an M-16 automatic rifle and a pistol, lying on the ground near the scene.

The reporter said there appeared to have been more than one gunman involved in the attack. Israeli radio stations said the driver of one vehicle ran over a gunman while he was firing.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed group linked to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Isahal Otner, a passenger on the bus, told Army radio a grenade was thrown at the back of the bus and gunfire was sprayed on the vehicle as it approached the settlement.

"There was a huge explosion in the back of the bus... all the windows of the back of the bus were destroyed... the bus continued slowly about 100m and people lay on the ground," he said.

Ambulance and rescue workers said they were targeted with fresh gunfire when they arrived at the scene.

Israeli radio stations said the bus, which belonged to the Tel Aviv bus company Dan, was not armoured.

Palestinian gunmen have attacked Jewish settlers since an uprising against Israeli occupation erupted in September 2000 after peace talks stalled. They say settlers are fair targets because they are living on occupied land. - Reuters