Israel PM calls suspected Jewish attack on Palestinian toddler 'act of terrorism'

Israel PM calls suspected Jewish attack on Palestinian toddler 'act of terrorism'
Israeli security forces inspect a Palestinian house that was set on fire by Jewish settlers in the West Bank village of Doma on July 31, 2015.
PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an arson attack by suspected Jewish settlers that killed a Palestinian toddler in the West Bank on Friday "an act of terrorism in every respect."

"I am shocked over this reprehensible and horrific act," Netanyahu said in a statement. "This is an act of terrorism in every respect."

The toddler was burned to death and four family members injured in a suspected attack by Jewish settlers on two homes in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon also called the attack an "act of terrorism."

The arson attack in the village of Duma near the northern city of Nablus threatened to further stoke tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu controversially approved 300 new settler homes in the West Bank.

According to Palestinian security officials, four assailants believed to be Jewish settlers set a house on fire at the entrance to the village and scrawled graffiti on a wall before fleeing to a nearby Jewish settlement.

The Israeli military said two homes had been set ablaze, and a child killed and four family members wounded. It added that the graffiti had been written in Hebrew.

Palestinian sources said those wounded included the toddler's parents and another child.

The Israeli defence minister said such attacks would not be tolerated.

"The fire and the murder of the Palestinian toddler is an act of terrorism," Yaalon said in a statement.

"We will not allow terrorists to take the lives of Palestinians."

The Israeli military said it was working to find the perpetrators.

The arson attack follows days of tensions surrounding settlements in the West Bank, with rightwing groups opposing the demolition of two buildings under construction that the Israeli High Court said were illegal.

The demolition began on Wednesday, but Netanyahu authorised the immediate construction of 300 settler homes in the same area the same day.

Settlers had clashed with police when they moved in to demolish the buildings.

Netanyahu holds only a one-seat majority in parliament following March elections and settler groups wield significant influence in his government.

West Bank settlements are viewed as illegal under international law, but not by the Israeli government.

They are also major impediments to peace negotiations with the Palestinians, who see the land as part of a future independent state, and Western nations have called on Israel to halt construction.

Extreme-right Israeli activists have committed acts of vandalism and violence against Palestinians and Arab Israelis for years, attacking Christian and Muslim places of worship and even Israeli soldiers.

The attacks are known as "price tag" violence -- a euphemism for nationalist-motivated hate crimes by Jewish extremists.

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