Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - The United States is shocked by the 'latest terrorist outrage' that claimed the lives of three Americans in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer said.
Three Americans were killed and fourth seriously wounded, when a roadside bomb exploded under their vehicle mid-morning, blowing the heavily-armored vehicle to bits. The dead Americans were contracted by the U.S. Embassy to provide security for American officials working in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Kurtzer praised the security personnel for their "great valor and dedication" in carrying out their work.
Two of the Americans were killed immediately, while the third died on the way to a Palestinian hospital, Kurtzer told reporters at a press conference in Tel Aviv. The fourth was treated initially in a Palestinian hospital and then transferred to an Israeli hospital.
"The security personnel that were attacked were part of a convoy of armored vehicles including American diplomats with official business to conduct in Gaza for the American Embassy," Kurtzer said.
"Among their planned activities were interviews of Palestinian academics who have applied for Fulbright scholarships to study or teach in the U.S.," he said.
Kurtzer said he could not yet release the identities of the American victims, pending notification of next of kin as well as privacy waivers.
"We are shocked by this latest terrorist outrage," the ambassador said. "The U.S. government will investigate fully and work with the relevant authorities to bring to justice those responsible for this senseless and brutal attack.
"The FBI is sending a team of experts who will focus on evidence gathering and explosives," he said.
The U.S. also issued an advisory recommending that Americans leave the Gaza Strip as quickly as possible.
But Kurtzer pledged the U.S. would continue to help both sides work for peace.
"The U.S. will also continue assisting the parties as they seek ways to stop the terror and to achieve peace," he said. "This will ultimately be the most enduring response to murderers and terrorists."
Kurzter said he had received many condolence calls and offers of assistance including from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.