Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

Israel launches manhunt after soldier found stabbed in West Bank

The incident risked increasing Palestinian-Israeli tension weeks before September 17 Israeli polls

Israeli border policemen stand guard near the scene where the Israeli military said an Israeli soldier was found stabbed to death near a Jewish settlement outside the Palestinian city of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 8, 2019. Reuters
Israeli border policemen stand guard near the scene where the Israeli military said an Israeli soldier was found stabbed to death near a Jewish settlement outside the Palestinian city of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 8, 2019. Reuters

An off-duty Israeli soldier was found stabbed to death in the occupied West Bank early on Thursday, setting off a large manhunt that included the searching by soldiers of a Palestinian village

Dvir Sorek, 19, was studying in a religious seminary north of the city of Hebron in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

He was not in uniform at the time of his death and had not yet begun military training, Israeli media reported.

“Today, in the early morning hours, a soldier’s body was found with stabbing marks on it adjacent to a community north of Hebron,” the Israeli military said.

“The soldier was a yeshiva [seminary] student. His family has been notified. IDF troops, Israel security agency forces and Israeli police forces are searching the area.”

Palestinian security forces are helping with the manhunt.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Gaza’s rulers Hamas issued a statement praising the killing of the soldier.

“We salute the hero fighters, sons of our people, who carried out the heroic operation that killed a soldier of the occupation army,” Hamas said.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad also hailed the killing as “heroic and bold”.

Hebron and the settlements around it are often a hot spot for violence between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers and settlers. The military did not immediately accuse anyone of the killing, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly issued a statement calling the attack the act of a “despicable terrorist” and vowed to “settle the account”. Mr Netanyahu is also defence minister.

His spokesman, Evan Gary Cohen, appeared to hold Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for the attack.

Other Israeli politicians, vying for Mr Netanyahu’s seat in next month’s election, expressed their condolences using similar language.

“The IDF and Israeli security forces will know how to get their hands on these loathsome terrorists, dead or alive,” said Benny Gantz, a former army chief and now chairman of the centrist Blue-White party.

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Israel is Our Home Party and now one of Mr Netanyahu’s main opponents, said the prime minister’s lack of action in Gaza had enabled attacks such as this one.

Initial reports suggested that Sorek had been abducted and killed in a different location from where his body was found at 3am, according to Israeli media.

“He went to Jerusalem to buy gifts for his rabbis and on the way back there was an attack,” said the principal of Sorek’s seminary, Rabbi Shlomo Wilik. “He was found clutching the books that he’d bought.”

About 400,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the occupied West Bank alongside about 2.6 million Palestinians.

Mr Netanyahu pledged in April to annex settlements in the territory.

Annexing settlements on a large scale could be the death knell to already fading hopes for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Updated: August 8, 2019 05:33 PM

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