News24

West Bank axe attack, teen dies

2009-04-02 14:05

Bat Ayin, West Bank - A 13-year-old Israeli boy was killed and a seven-year-old wounded on Thursday when an axe-wielding Palestinian went on the rampage in a settlement in the occupied West Bank, medics said.

The two children were attacked shortly after midday in the Bat Ayin settlement southwest of Bethlehem, they said.

The Palestinian who carried out the attack, which comes a few days after the Passover school vacation got under way in Israel, fled the scene.

The army was conducting a massive search in the area and residents of other settlements in the area were instructed to stay indoors, radio and television reported.

"I was near the settlement offices when I saw a Palestinian with an axe running toward me," Avinoam, a witness to the attack, told Israeli television.

"I managed to block his arm, we fell to the ground and struggled but he managed to run away.

"I called for help, another resident fired at him, but missed. When I got up, I saw a child wounded in the head. I cried to warn his mother, who ran toward him," he said.

Bat Ayin is one of the most radical settlements in the occupied West Bank. Most of its fewer than 1 000 residents are hardline settlers who normally prevent Palestinians from entering the settlement boundaries.

It marked the first such attack since hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially took office on Tuesday.

The election of Netanyahu, who opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, has sparked widespread concern among Palestinians and the international community for the future of the troubled peace process.

Netanyahu's firebrand Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has sparked controversy with hardline statements as soon as he assumed office on Wednesday, lives in the Nokdim settlement southeast of Bethlehem.

The last deadly Palestinian attack in the West Bank was on March 15 when two policemen were shot dead near the settlement of Massua in the northern Jordan Valley.

In a statement on Thursday, Michael Ben Ari of the far-right pro-settler National Union party, said the attack was a consequence of Israel taking down some roadblocks in the occupied Palestinian territory.

"We warned that the easing of the roadblocks will bring catastrophe," he said. Defence Minister Ehud "Barak carries the responsibility for what has happened".

Israel has more than 500 roadblocks in the West Bank, with the barriers severely limiting the freedom of movement in the territory home to 2.4 million Palestinians.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are one of the main sticking points in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The international community considers all the settlements in the territory to be illegal.

Israel's anti-settlement Peace Now group says that there are a total of more than 280 000 Israeli settlers now living in some 121 settlements in the West Bank. Another estimated 200 000 live in annexed east Jerusalem.