JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinians wielding axes and iron bars killed an Israeli man outside his home in the West Bank, Israeli police said Friday, the latest in a series of attacks on Israelis in the area.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the man was "brutally attacked with iron bars and axes" at about 2 a.m. after he went outside to investigate suspicious noises. "We strongly believe this was a terror attack," Rosenfeld said.
His partner witnessed the assault from a window and she escaped from a back door of the house, Rosenfeld said. The Israeli news website Ynet said the woman was lightly injured when she tripped on barbed wire while running away and later underwent surgery. According to the reports, the slain man was a reservist, a colonel in his fifties.
The woman, identified as Monique Mor by Channel 10 TV, later spoke to the station from a hospital bed. "Everybody knew him, he was a military man for many years," she said. The man, identified by the reports as Seraiah Ofer, had served as commander of the Gaza district and in several elite combat units, she said.
Israeli president Shimon Peres issued a statement condemning the killing of a senior officer "who served his country and people." "No-one will rest until the murderers are brought to justice," Peres said.
The military stopped short of calling the assault a "terror attack," saying that an investigation was still underway. It said troops set up roadblocks, searched the area and five suspects were later arrested.
Israel Radio said the attack took place at an Israeli resort called Brosh HaBiq'a in the Jordan Valley— which technically would make it a Jewish settlement in the West Bank — in a mostly desolate area. It said the place was empty at the time except for the couple.
It was the latest violent attack in the West Bank in the past few weeks. Last week, a 9-year-old girl was wounded in a suspected Palestinian attack while playing outside her home in a West Bank settlement. An Israeli soldier was shot and killed last month by a sniper in the West Bank city of Hebron. And in a separate incident an Israeli soldier was lured to the West Bank and killed by a Palestinian who wanted to trade the body for his brother who is serving time in an Israeli jail for shooting and bomb attacks.
On Thursday, masked Jewish settlers torched three cars and defaced a mosque by spray-painting graffiti during an overnight attack in the Palestinian village of Burka in the West Bank. The spike in violence adds to the mistrust between Israel and the Palestinians as the two sides hold negotiations that restarted this summer after nearly five years.
After Friday's attack, Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel issued a statement calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the talks with the Palestinians. Talks collapsed in 2008, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spent months early this year persuading the two sides to restart the talks.
Israel says security is a top priority in the talks. Palestinians argue that Jewish settlements and construction in areas they seek for their future state are a key issue.