BEIT HAGAI, WEST BANK (AP) - A Palestinian wielding a knife was shot and killed by Jewish settlers early Friday when he tried to attack residents of a West Bank settlement, the Israeli military said, in violence likely to further heighten tensions between Palestinians and Israel’s new hard-line government.
The Palestinian entered the settlement of Beit Hagai with a knife and tried to stab several residents before he was confronted by an armed resident and shot, according to the rescue service. The military said one Israeli suffered a light stab wound.
One of the settlers told Army Radio that he and a friend confronted the Palestinian, who appeared to be between 18 and 20. When approached, the man pulled out a knife, according to the settler, who identified himself only as Uziel.
“I had a pistol on me. I tried to shoot, but it jammed. During the struggle, he ran after me as well, and then my friend took the pistol and shot him,” Uziel said.
Troops and police closed roads nearby and were searching the area, the military said. No Palestinian group immediately took responsibility.
Several hours after the incident, the Israeli military handed the assailant’s body over to Palestinian medics. His identity was not immediately known.
Most Israeli settlements are protected by fences, but residents of Beit Hagai have refused to build a fence because to do so would show the Palestinians that they are afraid, said Yair Lior, a spokesman for the settlement.
“God performed a miracle for us today,” Lior said.
In an attack early this month, a Palestinian wielding an ax killed a 13-year-old and wounded a 7-year-old in Bat Ayin, an Israeli settlement not far away. The attacker escaped.
Friday’s attack comes as President Barack Obama’s Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, is visiting the region in an effort to move forward with stalled peace talks. Israel’s new government, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is dominated by hawks who have suggested Israeli concessions in the West Bank would allow Palestinians to threaten Israel’s security.
After the first attack, a government spokesman said Israel would have a “zero tolerance policy” toward militants.
Moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas runs a Western-backed government in the West Bank, but the area is under the overall control of Israel’s military.
The creation of a Palestinian state is the centerpiece of U.S. peace efforts in the region, and that would require an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the removal of most, if not all, of Israel’s settlements there.
Some 280,000 Israelis live in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and another 180,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem.
Those areas, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, are home to some 2.3 million Palestinians. The Palestinians claim both areas for a future state and say the settlements make it impossible for them to gain independence.
Israel’s previous government held peace talks with Abbas. But Netanyahu has yet to say he supports the creation of a Palestinian state, and Israel’s new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has said Israeli concessions have only brought more violence.