Monday 16 September 2019

Israeli troops search West Bank after body of soldier found with stab wounds

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the killing as a terror attack.

The area where a body was found (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
The area where a body was found (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

By Ilan Ben Zion, Associated Press

Israeli troops have raided a Palestinian village as the military sent reinforcements to the West Bank hours after the body of a 19-year-old soldier with stab wounds was found near a Jewish settlement.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the killing as a terror attack and vowed the killers would be brought to justice.

The killing threatened to inflame tensions between Israelis and Palestinians just over a month before Israel’s parliamentary elections. In response to the incident, Mr Netanyahu’s nationalist allies called for further West Bank settlement construction and a heavy-handed response.

The soldier was identified as 19-year-old Dvir Sorek, from the West Bank settlement of Ofra, north of Jerusalem. He was a student at a pre-military Jewish seminary in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, south of Jerusalem. His body was found on the side of a road near the seminary.

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Israeli troops secure the area (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said the soldier was neither armed nor in uniform when his body was found. He said the military was investigating the circumstances and searching for suspects.

As part of the searches, a column of Israeli jeeps entered the nearby Palestinian village of Beit Fajar, a mile south of where the body was found. Soldiers blocked the road and searched homes.

The military said it was calling up more troops to the West Bank in response to the incident.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad called the killing “heroic and bold”.

Rabbi Shlomo Wilk, head of Mr Sorek’s school, told Israel Radio that the student had gone to Jerusalem to buy presents for the school’s faculty. Rabbi Wilk said the teenager had called a friend and said he would return on time.

“When he was late, we started to worry,” Rabbi Wilk said. “Fairly quickly we understood that something wasn’t right and we got the police involved.”

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Benjamin Netanyahu (Ian Nicholson/PA)

Mr Netanyahu said in a statement that security forces were “in pursuit now in order to capture the despicable terrorist and bring him to account”.

Speaking at the inauguration of new settlement homes in Beit El, north of Jerusalem, he said Israel “will reach those who seek to harm us, we will strengthen our roots in our homeland”.

President Reuven Rivlin offered his condolences and said the security forces were “pursuing the murderers and will not rest until we find them”.

“Our prayers this morning are with the family of the murdered soldier and our hearts grieve for the life cut short,” he said. “We fight terrorism without compromise to ensure the security of our people.”

Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Palestinians seek the territories as part of a future state, with the occupied West Bank as the centrepiece and east Jerusalem as a capital.

Most of the international community considers Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal and an obstacle to creating a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel considers the territories “disputed” and says the fate of the settlements should be determined through negotiations, which have been moribund for years.

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