Large numbers of Israeli security forces have been deployed in the West Bank after an Israeli settler was stabbed to death by a Palestinian amid fears that the killing could trigger widespread confrontations.
Eviatar Borovzky, 30, a father of five children and a part-time security guard at the hardline settlement of Yitzhar, near Nablus, died of his wounds at the scene of the attack. His assailant snatched the settler's gun and shot at nearby border police. They returned fire, wounding the Palestinian, who was detained and taken to hospital in Israel.
Confrontations between militant settlers and Israeli security forces in the West Bank were reported following the attack. Two Palestinian school buses were stoned by settlers, while others set fire to tyres and olive groves, the Palestinian official Ghassan Daghlas told the news agency Ma'an.
Around the same time, an Israeli air strike killed an alleged Palestinian militant in Gaza in the first targeted assassination since the eight-day war last November.
The renewed violence is likely to dismay the US secretary of state, John Kerry, who has embarked on a drive to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table after four years without face-to-face talks. Kerry has visited the region three times in recent weeks in an effort to broker confidence-building measures, which are seen as a necessary precursor to renewed negotiations.
Borovzky was reportedly stabbed three times, at least once in the chest, in the attack early yesterday morning at a bus stop at the Tapuach junction, near Nablus‚ a tense spot where settlers congregate to catch buses or hitchhike.
Palestinian “services”, or shared taxis, are banned from stopping at the junction.
Following yesterday's attack, Yariv Levin, the chairman of Israel's governing coalition, said it was “the Palestinian response to John Kerry's new peace initiatives”. Avi Roeh, of the Yesha Council, which represent settlers, said that “history proves that talk of concessions is the biggest producer of terror attack”.
Borovzky is the first Israeli to be killed by Palestinians in the West Bank since September 2011, when Asher Palmer, 25, and his baby son died after a rock was thrown at their car. Six months earlier, five members of the Fogel family were stabbed to death in their home in the settlement of Itamar.
2012 was the first year that no Israelis were killed in the West Bank, according to the Israeli internal security service, Shin Bet.
Since the beginning of this year, nine Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank. Israeli security analysts have warned repeatedly of mounting tension in the area which, they say, could lead to renewed violence.
Hamas, the Islamist organisation which controls Gaza, has observed the ceasefire agreement that ended November's conflict. However, in the past two months there has been renewed intermittent rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, blamed on small extremist organisations that Hamas is trying to rein in.
There is widespread expectation in Gaza that another military confrontation is inevitable. Many in Gaza say Israel has violated the terms of the ceasefire agreement by failing to open Gaza's borders.