JERUSALEM — A Palestinian teenager stabbed an Israeli soldier to death at a bus station in northern Israel on Wednesday, police said, in a rare nationalistic attack far from the usual West Bank flashpoints.
The soldier was stabbed multiple times in the neck and upper body and was evacuated to hospital in critical condition where he died of his wounds, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
The attacker, a 16-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank town of Jenin who was working in Israel illegally, was apprehended and was being investigated, Rosenfeld said. The knife he used to stab the soldier was confiscated.
The stabbing took place on a Tel Aviv-bound bus as it made a stop in the northern Israeli town of Afula.
The attack comes at a sensitive time as Israelis and Palestinians resumed peace talks in late July, after a nearly five-year break. The sides have set an April target date for reaching an agreement.
But an uptick in deadly violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank recently is undermining the efforts to make progress in the faltering negotiations. Still, attacks inside Israel itself have been rare.
As part of the U.S.-brokered agreement to restart the peace talks, Israel recently released 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners who had been convicted of killing Israelis.
Almagor, an Israeli group representing victims of the Palestinian attacks, said Wednesday's stabbing shows Israel was wrong to go through with the prisoners' release because it would encourage Palestinians to believe that despite attacks they will be released someday.
The attack also came a day after Israel flip-flopped over the announcement of plans for new West Bank settlement construction — a key stumbling point in the peace talks.
Israel initially said it would explore the potential construction of thousands of new homes, but the decision was later reversed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said it had created "unnecessary confrontation" with the international community.
The issue of settlement construction has been at the heart of the standstill in peace efforts in recent years and the Palestinians say it remains a major obstacle in the newly restarted talks.
The Palestinians claim the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in 1967, for an independent state. They say Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands is a sign of bad faith. More than 500,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.