JERUSALEM, June 30 (UPI) — A 13-year-old Israeli-American girl was stabbed to death Thursday inside her own bedroom in a West Bank Jewish settlement, officials said, in what police say was a militant attack by a Palestinian assailant.
The child, Hallel Yaffa Ariel, was sleeping in her bedroom in Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, when she was stabbed, “many, many times. Mostly in her back,” officials said.
The suspect, shot and killed by police. at the scene, was identified as Mohammad Tra’ayra, a 17-year-old from a nearby Palestinian village. A 31-year-old security guard injured in the incident was being treated at a nearby hospital.
Investigators said after the attack that they consider the girl’s death a militant terrorist strike.
“After infiltrating the community, the terrorist entered a home and stabbed a teenage girl in her bedroom,” the Israeli army said in a statement Thursday. “Security personnel arrived at the home and shot the attacker.”
Video: Times of Israel/YouTube
“We have now confirmed that she is a U.S. citizen,” a visibly disturbed Kirby said at a briefing Thursday. “This brutal act of terrorism is simply unconscionable.
“We offer our heartfelt condolences, of course, to the family. … There is just absolutely no justification for terrorism.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a “strong and determined” reaction to the attack.
“The horrifying murder of a young girl in her bed underscores the bloodlust and inhumanity of the incitement-driven terrorists that we are facing,” he said. “The entire nation deeply identifies with the family’s pain and declares to the murderers: You will not break us.”
Thursday night, the girl’s mother eulogized her daughter during a community vigil — and directed grief at the mother of the accused attacker.
“I am standing here with a heart filled with pain and I am turning to you, the Arab mother, the Muslim who sent your son out to stab,” she said. “I raised my daughter with love, but you and the Arab Muslim educators, you taught [your son] to hate.”
Nearly 8,000 Israelis live in the Kiryat Arba district, near the Palestinian city of Hebron — which is home about 200,000 Palestinians and about 500 Jewish residents who live in an Israeli settlement. It is near the holy site Israelis call the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Palestinians call the Ibrahimi Mosque.
The region has long been the site of violence. Since late 2015, Israeli forces have killed at least 198 Palestinians and Palestinians have killed 33 Israelis.