Palestinian teen stabs 13-year-old Israeli-American girl to death in her bedroom in West Bank settlement

The attacker broke into the family home in the settlement of Kiryat Arba in Hebron

Hillel's mother, sister and father mourning at her funeral
Hillel's mother, sister and father mourning at her funeral

A 13-year-old girl has been stabbed to death by a Palestinian teenager as she slept in her bed in the West Bank.

The attacker, who had broken into the family home, was shot dead by security guards shortly after the attack in the settlement of Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of Hebron.

Malachi Levinger, chairman of its governing council, said an alarm was triggered when the 17-year-old assailant jumped a perimeter fence. One of the guards was also stabbed during the incident overnight.

The wounded child, Hallel Yaffa Ariel, died from her injuries in a local hospital. She was a cousin of Uri Ariel, a cabinet minister from the Jewish Home party, which is affiliated with the West Bank settler movement.

US State Department Spokesperson John Kirby confirmed that the victim was a joint US-Israeli citizen and called her death an “outrageous terrorist attack.”

“This brutal act of terrorism is simply unconscionable and we offer our heartfelt condolences to her family and her friends," he added.

Hallel's mother Rina said the girl was sleeping when the attacker slipped into her room and attacked her.

“Kiryat Arba is ours and it's still a place you can live in,” she added.

Photos released by the military showed blood on the bed and floor in her room.

A Facebook account believed to belong to the man praised a Palestinian woman who was shot dead after a car ramming attack and included a post reading: “Death is a right and I demand the right to die.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, said his home would be destroyed and permits enabling his relatives to work in Israel revoked.

He called on Palestinian leaders to condemn the attack and take immediate steps to stop what he described as incitement that the Israeli government is driving a string of attacks over the last nine months.

“The horrific murder of an innocent girl in her bed sheds light on the bloodlust and lack of humanity displayed by the terrorists we are facing,” Mr Netanyahu said.

“The entire nation deeply identifies with the family's pain and declares to the murderers: you will not break us.”

The attacker’s village was locked down by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) as soldiers carried out searches and questioned relatives, with only humanitarian aid and urgent medical access allowed.

The IDF named the attacker as Muhammad Tarayra and gave his age as 17, but conflicting reports spelt the name as Mohammad Tra'ayra or Tarayreh, and said he was 19.

His cousin, Adnan Tarayra, said he had dropped out of school and was working in a bakery, and that shocked relatives believe he may have been driven by the death of another cousin who was shot dead during a car ramming attack.

A statement from the US State Department condemned “in the strongest terms the outrageous terrorist attack”, calling the stabbing “unconscionable”.

Later in the afternoon, two other Israelis were stabbed and wounded in the city of Netanya later in the afternoon, with the suspect shot dead by an armed civilian.

Hamas has praised previous attacks but had issued no comment on the stabbings by Thursday evening.

Palestinians have killed at least 33 Israelis and two visiting US citizens in a wave of street attacks, mostly stabbings, since October.

Israel ups security

In the same period, Israeli forces have shot dead at least 198 Palestinians, 134 who were allegedly carrying out or attempting attacks. Others were killed in clashes and protests.

The latest incident came after security was increased in Israeli cities following a shooting attack at a Tel Aviv shopping center that killed four people on 8 June.

Palestinian leaders say assailants have acted out of desperation over the collapse of peace talks in 2014 and the expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied territory that Palestinians seek for an independent state.

The United Nations views the settlements as illegal but the designation is disputed by the Israeli government.

The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process said an upcoming report by international mediators will call on Israel and the Palestinians to urgently reverse key obstacles to peace, including Israeli settlement expansion, the Palestinian Authority's lack of control over Gaza and continuing violence, terrorism and incitement.

Nicolay Mladenov told the Security Council that the report by the Quartet — the UN, US, European Union and Russia - will recommend ways to address these negative trends and reiterate last September's call for Israel to give the Palestinians greater civil authority on Thursday.

He expressed hope that both sides would move the peace process forward based on the report, which is expected to be released Friday. But he stressed that a final peace agreement can only be reached by direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.