ITAMAR, West Bank — A Palestinian infiltrated a Jewish West Bank settlement early today and killed five people, the Israeli military said.
Israeli media reported that the dead were all members of the same family — parents and three children. The family members — including an 11-year-old, a 3-year-old and an infant — were all stabbed in their sleep, the YNet website reported.
The military said it was sweeping the area in search of the killer and had set up checkpoints throughout the West Bank. It instructed all residents to stay at home during the extensive search.
The military blocked the entrance to the northern West Bank settlement of Itamar, as soldiers poured inside and a pair of ambulances departed.
The overnight attack is the first attack against settlers in months and the first of its kind and scope in years. It marks a rare outburst of violence during a relatively calm period.
It also comes as Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts are at a standstill and seems likely to complicate efforts to restart them.
U.S.-led peace talks, launched six months ago with the ambitious goal of striking a final deal by September, broke down shortly after they began over Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians demanded a freeze in both areas, but Israel refused, arguing that previous rounds of talks took place while settlement construction was under way and that the issue should be settled in negotiations.
Itamar is home to some of the West Bank's most fervent settlers. The attack took place in the middle of the night against a religious community on the Jewish Sabbath.
The attack was reminiscent of a similar one against Itamar in June 2002, during the height of the violent Palestinian uprising, when a gunmen burst into the home of a family and opened fire. Five people were killed.