Israeli security forces have launched a manhunt for a Palestinian suspected of killing a 13 year-old boy and seriously injuring a seven year-old in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin. The boys were attacked with an axe and knife, and the seven year-old is reportedly the son of a Jewish militant serving 15 years in prison for attempting to bomb a Palestinian girl’s school in East Jerusalem in 2002.
Bat Ayin is reputedly one of the most militant Jewish settlements, and home to some 1000 settlers. It is the first attack against Jews since the new Israeli government was sworn-in. A spokesman for Hamas gave his reaction to the incident: “We are an occupied people and we have the right to defend ourselves and to practice our natural right of responding to the crimes committed by the occupation using all possible means available.” Israel’s response was equally uncompromising: “The new Israeli government will have a zero tolerance policy towards acts of terrorism. We refuse to see such attacks as routine, to accept them as routine. The Palestinian leadership must act both in word and in deed.” The leading opposition party Kadima has warned the new coalition government it should beware overreacting to the attack, but one member of the coalition’s extreme right-wing said it was the fault of Defence Minister Ehud Barak who, he said, had lifted a number of checkpoints in the area.