Escalation feared after Israeli settlements stabbings

Jerusalem: Two knife attacks inside Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including the fatal stabbing of a woman in her home, boosted tensions today after months of violence and raised fears of an escalation.

As a manhunt was under way for the assailant in yesterday’s fatal stabbing, another knife attack today 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.

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 occupied West Bank were not allowed in today, the army said, in an order that affected several thousand labourers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signalled further security measures, pledging to “strengthen the communities” in response to the deadly stabbing in the Otniel settlement near the flashpoint city of Hebron in the southern West Bank.

“Whoever tries to harm us, we will bring him to justice,” Netanyahu said. “In the end he will be found and he will pay the full price.”

The woman killed was identified as Dafna Meir, a 38-year-old nurse and mother of six.

At least some of her children, aged four to 17, were home at the time, but were not hurt. The attacker remained at large today.

Michal Froman, who was stabbed today, was five months pregnant and 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.