- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

BREAKING NEWS, DEVELOPING:

JERUSALEM (AP) — An ax-wielding Palestinian militant entered a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on Thursday and went on a rampage, killing an Israeli teenager and wounding a young boy before fleeing the area.

Authorities said a manhunt was under way for the assailant, who was believed to have been wounded by security guards.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the militant used the ax and a knife in the attack in Bat Ayin, a settlement south of Jerusalem. “No shots were fired,” he said.

Security guards wounded the attacker before he fled, said Shaul Goldstein, a settler leader. “The security team here managed to shoot and hit the terrorist, but he managed to escape,” he told Army Radio.

Police and military units were searching for the attacker, according to Rosenfeld and army officials. Israeli TV showed images of a large group soldiers in combat gear gathered at an intersection, and the army said all roads around the settlement were closed.

Rescuers on the scene told Israel Radio that a 13-year-old boy was killed and a 7-year-old boy was badly wounded. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The attack was likely to heighten tensions between the Palestinians and Israel’s new hard-line government, which has already voiced skepticism about peace negotiations in its first days in office.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was elected to office on a campaign that criticized his predecessor’s peace negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu has said he will still seek peace, but has given few details about his vision for a final agreement. He has specifically refused to endorse the idea of an independent Palestinian state — a key demand of the Palestinians and the centerpiece of U.S. diplomacy in the region.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said Israeli concessions to the Palestinians would only bring more war. He also rejected the previous government’s peace talks, launched at a U.S.-sponsored conference in 2007.

Netanyahu hasn’t commented publicly on Lieberman’s statement. But a close Netanyahu ally, Cabinet minister Gilad Erdan, said Thursday that Lieberman’s comments reflected the position of the prime minister’s Likud Party.

Israel’s former chief peace negotiator, Tzipi Livni, said Lieberman’s scathing rejection of recent negotiations shows the new government is not a partner for peace with the Palestinians.

“What happened yesterday is that the Israeli government announced that Israel isn’t relevant, isn’t a partner,” Livni told Army Radio.

The appointment of the ultranationalist Lieberman has angered Palestinians and raised international concerns because of his hard-line positions on peace and an election campaign that was widely seen as racist.

His comments on Wednesday signaled a difficult road ahead for President Barack Obama’s Mideast policy, especially its push for a Palestinian state.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Lieberman early Thursday, according to Lieberman spokeswoman Irena Etinger. The conversation was conducted in a “good atmosphere,” and the two agreed to meet as soon as possible, Etinger said. She would not say what issues were discussed.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Lieberman’s remarks were an insult to the world powers pushing for peace.

“He has slammed the door in the face of the U.S. and the international community,” Erekat said. “It seems to me that this is President Obama’s first real test.”

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