JERUSALEM — A Palestinian youth scaled the security fence into a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on Thursday, entered a family home and stabbed to death a 13-year-old Israeli girl as she slept in her bedroom, Israeli officials said.
Security cameras caught the assailant climbing the fence, but officers arrived at the house in the settlement of Kiryat Arba minutes too late. The girl, identified as Hallel Yaffe Ariel, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, had been stabbed several times. She died on the way to a hospital.
The attacker, identified as Mohammad Tra’ayra, 19, from the nearby village of Bani Na’im, was shot dead at the scene, a statement from the Israeli military said.
The attack is the latest bloodshed in a wave of violence between Palestinians and Israelis that began nine months ago but has tapered off recently. It also brought calls for increased security and more intensive building in Israeli settlements, which Palestinians and most of the international community condemn as illegal.
Later on Thursday, two Israelis — a middle-aged man and an elderly woman — were stabbed and wounded, one critically, in the coastal town of Netanya. The assailant, a Palestinian from the West Bank town of Tukarem, was shot dead at the scene, Israeli authorities said.
Israeli news media published a disturbing video of the attack in Kiryat Arba. In the footage, Hallel’s father, Amichai Ariel, is seen arriving at his family home after the attack and finding his daughter bleeding on her bedroom floor. The family is related to right-wing Israeli minister of agriculture Uri Ariel.
“My daughter was simply asleep, calm and serene. She was happy, and a terrorist came to her bed, in Kiryat Arba, and killed her,” said Hallel’s mother, Rina. “I want everyone to see our pain and to come console us. Hallel, may your memory be a blessing.”
Immediately after the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a security briefing with his new defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman. It was decided to seal off the assailant’s village and to revoke permits to enter Israel for work for all members of his clan. Procedures for demolishing his family’s home have begun, a statement from the prime minister’s bureau said.
“The horrifying murder of a young girl in her bed underscores the bloodlust and inhumanity of the incitement-driven terrorists that we are facing,” Netanyahu said.
He called on the Palestinian leadership to condemn the killings and “take immediate action to stop incitement.”
The U.S. State Department earlier Thursday condemned the killing and confirmed in the afternoon that Hallel was an American citizen. “This brutal act of terrorism is simply unconscionable,” spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “We offer our heartfelt condolences, of course, to her family and to her friends.”
Roughly 7,800 Israelis live in Kiryat Arba, which sits on the edge of the largest Palestinian city, Hebron. It is not far from one of the main flash points between Israelis and Palestinians: the holy site that Israelis refer to as the Cave of the Patriarchs and Palestinians as the Ibrahimi Mosque.
After Thursday’s attack, Yochai Damri, regional council head for Jewish settlements in the Hebron area, called on the government to take tougher action and intensify building in Israeli settlements in the Hebron hills.
Israel’s minister of transportation and intelligence, Yisrael Katz, urged that the family of the Palestinian assailant be expelled immediately to Syria or Gaza as a deterrent to terrorism. Israel’s policy has been to destroy the family homes of Palestinian assailants.
“Only the expulsion of families of terrorists can be used as a deterrent against acts of murder, which are incited by young people educated to hate and kill Jews,” said the minister, a confidant of Netanyahu’s.
Since Oct. 1, 2015, 31 Israelis and two American tourists have been killed in stabbing, shooting and vehicle attacks carried out by Palestinians. More than 190 Palestinians, many of whom were attackers, have been killed by Israeli forces or armed civilians.
The violence has eased in recent months, although on June 8, two Palestinian gunmen from the West Bank village of Yatta, near Hebron, opened fire in a crowded food market in the heart of Tel Aviv. Four Israelis were killed in that attack. The two Palestinians were arrested.
Thursday’s attack in Kiryat Arba resembles one in January, when a Palestinian teenager stabbed an Israeli woman to death in her kitchen in front of her children. That attack occurred in the Israeli settlement of Otniel.