JERUSALEM -- An Israeli soldier was stabbed to death by a Palestinian teenager on board a bus Wednesday morning, Israeli police and military officials said.
According to police and eyewitnesses, the Tel Aviv-bound bus made a stop in the northern town of Afula when a young passenger pulled out a knife and stabbed the soldier, who was napping while en route to his army base.
Citizens and security guards seized the suspect and turned him over to the police, while medics treated the soldier for critical injuries. Eden Atias, 19, died of his wounds shortly after being transported to a hospital.
Ronny Atiya, commander of the northern district of Israeli police, told Israeli media that the suspect was a 16-year-old Palestinian youth from a village near the West Bank town of Jenin and that he did not have a permit to be in Israel.
The teen reportedly told interrogators from the police and Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency, that he set out Wednesday morning to look for work and planned to “stab a Jew” if he could not find employment.
He also reportedly told authorities that his alleged crime was a protest of his two cousins, serving life sentences in an Israeli prison, being denied family visits.
Atiya said the youth apparently acted alone but that the investigation was ongoing.
Palestinian sources reported that Israeli army forces were operating in the suspect’s West Bank village of Bir al-Basha several hours after the incident.
Wednesday’s incident is the fourth fatal attack against Israelis in recent months.
Military authorities acknowledge an escalation in the number of attacks, but say it is hard to anticipate or prevent attacks perpetrated by lone assailants unrelated to organized militant groups. Army sources told Israeli media that they do not suspect an organized uprising at this point.
Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, in statements to Israeli media on Wednesday, blamed “ongoing Palestinian incitement” for encouraging the attacks. He also castigated the Palestinian Authority, blaming it for instigating the assaults during ongoing peace negotiations with Israel.
Other government hawks called for halting the peace talks entirely.