Attack by 16-year-old Palestinian youth in Afula prompts calls from some Israeli politicians to halt peace talks
An Israeli soldier has been stabbed to death on a bus in northern Israel by a 16-year-old Palestinian youth who told police he was acting in revenge for the imprisonment by Israel of members of his family.
The killing prompted calls from some Israeli politicians to halt the US-sponsored peace talks that have been under way since July.
In a separate development, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said his negotiators had quit in protest at the lack of progress amid Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.
Abbas told Egyptian television that if attempts to persuade Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Shtayyeh to return to the negotiating table failed, a new team would be appointed.
The 19-year-old soldier, Eden Attias, who was in uniform and travelling to an army base after enlisting two weeks ago, died in hospital in the town of Afula after being stabbed in the neck and chest.
His assailant, who was living in Israel illegally and whose family is from Jenin in the West Bank, was overpowered by bystanders.
Police said the youth, named as Hussein Jawadra, acted from nationalist motives. At least two of Jawadra's cousins are in Israeli prisons, one for the murder of two Israelis, and the other for attempted murder. "This is the reason that he decided to commit the stabbing," said the northern police commander Ronny Attia.
Jawadra's father and other relatives were reportedly arrested later by Israeli security forces.
The stabbing occurred at about 8.30am on a bus en route from Nazareth to Tel Aviv. A paramedic who responded to an emergency call said: "A man aged about 18 was seated in one of the seats near the back of the bus. He was conscious, and had been stabbed several times all over his body. He was in a very bad state."
The attack follows a rise in violence in the West Bank, where 10 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli troops and three Israelis have been killed since peace talks resumed in July. In the past week, two Palestinians have been shot dead in separate incidents at checkpoints. Security forces said one had brandished a knife and the other fired a flare gun or firework.
Last week the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories could increase if the peace talks failed to reach a deal to end the decades-old conflict.
"The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos," Kerry said in a television interview. "I mean does Israel want a third intifada [uprising]? Israel says, 'Oh, we feel safe today, we have the wall. We're not in a day-to-day conflict'. I've got news for you. Today's status quo will not be tomorrow's."
The killing prompted some Israeli politicians to call for a halt to the peace process. The deputy defence minister, Danny Danon, said: "The talks are deluding both the Israeli public and the Arabs. We must stop this predictable crash course immediately."
The staged release of Palestinian prisoners under an agreement made at the beginning of the peace talks should stop, he added. So far 52 long-serving prisoners have been freed out of a total of 104 scheduled for release under the deal.
The justice minister, Tzipi Livni, who heads the Israeli negotiating team, sent her condolences to the soldier's family. In a Facebook post she said now was not the time for political arguments, but "violence will not bring diplomatic achievements. We will fight terror and extremism without compromise."
Nissan Slomiansky, a legislator for the rightwing Jewish Home party, said the stabbing was "a direct result of Israel's policy of freeing terrorists". He added: "The current situation endangers our sons and daughters while the [Palestinian Authority] celebrates the release of murderers. This is intolerable and must stop immediately."
Hamas congratulated the attacker. "This is a heroic act of resistance showing that all methods of oppression and terror have not and will not succeed in stopping our people from carrying out jihad and resistance," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum wrote on Facebook.
According to the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem, there were 4,806 Palestinian security prisoners and detainees in Israeli jails at the end of September. A further 1,280 Palestinians were in prison for being in Israel illegally. Most Palestinian families have experience of a relative in prison.
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