Diplomacy & defense

16-year-old Palestinian named prime suspect in brutal murder of mother of six

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday reacted to the brutal murder of an Israeli woman in the West Bank settlement of Otniel on Sunday, condemning violence but without specifically mentioning the attack. 

“We are concerned over every drop of blood from any person,” Abbas said in a speech that was broadcast to Palestinians from the Church of the Nativity.

Abbas, however, vowed that “the resistance will continue through peaceful means, and we will not call for anything else.”

“We will stand firm on our land, and we will stay the course despite the desperation and in spite of the fact that Israel’s leadership is trying to close every door to peace,” he said. 

Israeli security forces overnight arrested a Palestinian terrorist believed to be the prime suspect in the murder of Dafna Meir, who was stabbed to death by an attacker in her home in the West Bank settlement of Otniel near the flashpoint city of Hebron on Sunday.

16 year old Mourad Bader Abdallah Adias from a nearby village was believed to have killed the 38-year-old nurse and mother of six.

Following the arrest on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Otniel to support the grieving family of Meir.

Accompanied on his visit by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Netanyahu slammed the Palestinian Authority for the incitement that led to the attack.

“There is on the one side humanity and a desire for coexistence, and on the other side boundless hatred,” he said.

“That hatred has an address,” he added. “It is the incitement of the Palestinian Authority and other actors such as the Islamic Movement and Hamas. The time has come for the international community to stop its hypocrisy and to call the child by its name.”

The root of the conflict, Netanyahu added, is the Palestinian refusal to “recognize the right to the Jews to have a state in any borders – here, in Tel Aviv, anywhere,” he said. 

Israeli Security Services

Meir, who attempted to fight off the unidentified attacker, suffered multiple stab wounds, including to her head.

Her eldest daughter Renana, witnessed the attack and fled upstairs with two of her younger siblings and called her father, Natan.

Following the attack, the Israeli Defense Forces as well as police launched a manhunt for the attacker, setting up checkpoints and declaring the settlement a closed military zone.

Escalation feared

An injured Palestinian suspected attacker is treated by Israeli medic soldiers after he was shot following a stabbing attack on January 18, 2016 in the Tekoa settlement, south of Jerusalem ( Menahem Kahana (AFP) )

A second knife attack just a day later, boosted tensions Monday after months of violence and raised fears of an escalation.

As a manhunt was under way for the assailant in Sunday's fatal stabbing, a new knife attack Monday on a street in another West Bank settlement wounded a 30-year-old pregnant woman.

The 17-year-old Palestinian assailant was shot by security personnel and taken to hospital in severe condition after the attack in Tekoa, south of Jerusalem.

While the attacks were part of a months-long wave of violence, the stabbings have usually occurred in public areas such as checkpoints, at junctions and entrances to Jerusalem's Old City rather than inside Jewish settlements.

 ( HAZEM BADER (AFP) )

The new attacks triggered fears that the unrest was worsening and Israel would impose a harsh security crackdown on Palestinians.

Palestinians who work in settlements in the south of the West Bank were not allowed in on Monday, the army said, in an order that affected several thousand laborers.

- Five months pregnant -

Michal Froman, who was stabbed on Monday, was five months pregnant. Her injuries were not considered life-threatening.

She is the daughter-in-law of the late Rabbi Menahem Froman, a Jewish settler and peace activist who was one of the few Israelis to have talked with Hamas, the Islamist group which calls for Israel's destruction.

Her mother, Hadassah Froman, charged on Monday that the Netanyahu government was “mishandling” the relations with the Palestinians, calling to distinguish between peace-loving majority of Palestinians and terrorists.

Meir's funeral in Jerusalem on Monday was attended by hundreds of mourners, including Israeli politicians and Jewish settlers carrying rifles.

Her husband sat in the front row sobbing with two of their children in his lap.

"One hour before everything happened, we were still discussing what nail polish I should wear," their 17-year-old daughter Renana said at the funeral. "Now you won't escort me to my wedding."

Located near Otniel, the Palestinian village of Karma was sealed off Monday as the army guarded entrances.

"Yesterday ... the village was raided and they arrested all the young men, and people were detained until 3:00 in the morning," Talab Mahmud Abu Sheikha, head of the local village council, told AFP.

Natan, the husband of Dafna Meir, and her son speak during her funeral ceremony in the Jewish settlement of Otniel near the flashpoint city of Hebron in the southern West Bank on January 18, 2016 ( Menahem Kahana (AFP) )

Meir's death brought the Israeli toll in the spate of violence that started in early October to 24.

Israel's government had already come under heavy pressure over the spate of attacks and Sunday's killing provoked fresh outrage.

Many of the Palestinian attackers have been young people, including teenagers. A number of them have attempted attacks with kitchen knives in what some analysts have described as virtual suicide missions.

- Near-constant tension -

The Israeli army said it would ban Palestinian workers from entering Israeli settlements in the West Bank on Tuesday, citing "security reasons".

US ambassador Dan Shapiro on Monday condemned the stabbings as "barbaric acts of terrorism," but also questioned Israel's policies concerning settlements in the West Bank.

The European Union agreed a statement on the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process after resolving differences over wording which some felt was too critical of Israel.

"The EU firmly condemns the terror attacks and violence from all sides and in any circumstances, including the death of children," it said.

(staff with AFP)

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