A Palestinian stabbed two Israeli soldiers in the northern West Bank on Wednesday, wounding one seriously before being shot dead, the army said.
It was the second knife attack in a week targeting Israeli soldiers and the latest in a wave of lone-wolf attacks which have been on the rise since last summer’s 50-day war in the Gaza Strip.
It comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu works to piece together a new coalition government after a hard-fought general election which saw him controversially ruling out the establishment of a Palestinian state on his watch.
“Earlier today, two IDF soldiers were stabbed by a Palestinian attacker near the Sinjil junction. One soldier was seriously wounded, the second soldier was lightly wounded,” a military statement said.
“Forces at the site neutralised the assailant.”
The incident took place near the entrance to Shilo settlement, not far from the Palestinian village of Sinjil, on route 60, which is the main road linking the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Nablus.
Military sources told AFP one of the soldiers was in serious condition after being stabbed in the neck.
The incident took place despite heightened security measures as Israelis mark the week-long Passover festival.
Palestinian medics identified the attacker as 27-year-old Mohammed Jasser Karakra from Sinjil village, saying he had been shot twice in the head.
His body was transferred by Israel to the Abu Kabir forensic institute in Tel Aviv, they said.
It was the second stabbing in a week targeting soldiers.
On Thursday, at the start of the Passover holiday, a Palestinian lightly wounded an Israeli paratrooper who tried to stop him from crossing the West Bank security barrier in an area west of Nablus.
The attacker was arrested, the army said.
– Soldier’s action hailed –
Israel’s emergency services confirmed paramedics had responded to a call about a stabbing near the entrance to the Maale Levona settlement near Shilo.
They said that a young man of around 20 had been taken to Jerusalem’s Shaarei Tzedek hospital “in serious condition with a stab wound to his upper body.”
The statement did not mention the second soldier who was lightly injured in the attack, who was reportedly the one who managed to shoot dead the attacker.
The website of Haaretz newspaper said the two soldiers belonged to the Home Front Command and were sitting in an ambulance which was on standby in the Shilo area during the Passover holiday.
It said the soldier who was lightly wounded had opened fire on the attacker after he stabbed his colleague in the neck.
Naftali Bennett, outgoing economy minister and head of the far-right Jewish Home party, hailed the soldier for killing the attacker rather than arresting him.
“From Iran to Shilo, our enemies have only one goal: to hurt as many Jews as they can. I congratulate the security forces who killed the terrorist. This must be the fate of anyone who hurts innocent Jews,” he said on army radio.
“A serious incident must end this way and not with dreams of liberation from jail.”
Wednesday’s stabbing took place a day before the first Bible Marathon, a race which begins in Rosh HaAyin in Israel and runs eastward through the West Bank to end at Shilo settlement, very close to the scene of the stabbing.
The race will include a full marathon, a half marathon and a 15 kilometre route, with organisers saying hundreds of runners from Israel and abroad will take part.
Several main roads, including route 60 in that area are likely to be closed for security reasons.