In an attack that shocked the nation, 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel was murdered Thursday morning as she slept in her Kiryat Arba bedroom, when a terrorist from a nearby Palestinian village sneaked inside and stabbed her to death.
The murder, which came as the international community is pushing Israel and the Palestinians to renew the frozen peace process, set off a political firestorm, with rightwing politicians blaming Palestinian incitement for the attack and others on the left accusing the government of stagnation.
“The entire world needs to condemn this murder, just as it condemned the terrorist attacks in Orlando and Brussels,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “I expect the Palestinian leadership to clearly and unequivocally condemn this vicious murder and take immediate action to stop the incitement.
“Enlightened nations must join in this demand. They must pressure the one who heads the network of incitement that leads to the murder of children in their beds and not the State of Israel, which is working to protect its children and its citizens,” Netanyahu said.
At the funeral, Hallel’s mother, Rena, said: “You were a ray of light in my life. You were the one who turned me into a mother.”
Hallel was sleeping on Thursday morning in the first-floor bedroom that she shared with her two sisters, Shira Ruth, eight, and Kana, four.
Everyone was out of the house, when Muhammad Tarayrah, 17, breached the settlement’s fence, setting off an alarm that alerted residents to stay indoors.
He still had time to walk to the Ariel home, which was located in an isolated area of Kiryat Arba near its security road.
Tarayrah slipped into Hallel’s bedroom through an open window and stabbed her multiple times. He was still in the house when the settlement’s security team arrived, including Hallel’s stepfather, Amichai, who was part of the team.
They shot and killed Tarayrah and found Hallel by her bed.
A Magen David Adom paramedic said that when he arrived at the scene the teenage girl was unconscious and not breathing. They were able to resuscitate her at the scene, but it was touch-and-go during the ride to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, as they fought to keep her alive.
She was pronounced dead shortly after her arrival, without ever regaining consciousness.
A member of the settlement’s security team, age 31, was also wounded in the incident by a shot fired at Tarayrah. His wife, a volunteer for Magen David Adom, had a feeling that he had been wounded and rushed to the scene.
Since the wave of Palestinian violence against Israelis began in September 2015, there have been many attacks in and around Hebron, as well as on the outskirts of Kiryat Arba. But an infiltration into the settlement itself is rare.
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met and ordered the IDF to close off the Palestinian village of Bani Naim, located near Kiryat Arba, where Tarayrah lived. They also ordered the IDF to rescind work permits belonging to Tarayrah’s immediate and extended family.
Netanyahu, speaking in the evening at the annual July 4th celebration at the US ambassador’s residence in Herzliya, said that “what makes someone slit the throat of a child is not the quest for peace, it is a mind flooded with hate and incitement and ideology that says this child is not a human being.
And this ideology of hate was manifested when another would-be murderer knifed two Israelis in Netanya a few miles from here.”
Israel, he said, will always fight the terrorists, and those who dispatch, incite and sponsor them. “You do battle with terrorism by fighting the terrorists and those who back them, This is our position, and America’s position,” he said.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the outrageous terrorist attack this morning. This brutal act of terrorism is simply unconscionable.”
At the UN meanwhile, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov told the Security Council that the long-awaited Quartet report on the Middle East peace process will be released on Friday.
He said that “Palestinian frustration cannot be wished away” but added that “neither will the violence and terror [...] bring about a Palestinian state.”
Energy Ministry Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said he blames the attack both on Abbas and the incitement against Jews and Israelis that can be found in the PA’s education material.
“This is the direct result of the obsessive anti-Semitic incitement in Abu Mazen’s educational system. Until the Palestinian education system stops this incitement, any talk of advancing the peace process is just an illusion,” Steinitz said.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Isaac Herzog wrote on his Facebook page, “This reality must be changed.” He explained that he could not get the thought of how Hallel was killed while sleeping in her bedroom out of his mind.
“How did burning hatred and cruelty manage to break through the walls of the house?” Herzog asked.
Right-wing Israeli parliamentarians called on the government to act swiftly to prevent further attacks by calling on it to expel the terrorist’s family.
They also demanded that the government approve more settler building in Judea and Samaria, specifically in Kiryat Arba, which has been the focus of a number of terrorist attacks over the last eight months.
“Already tonight we have to expel to Syria or Gaza the family of the murderer who killed the girl from Kiryat Arba,” said Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud).
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, whose cousin Amichai was the victim’s step-father, spoke during Hallel’s funeral about the need to annex Judea and Samaria.
Left-wing politicians, in contrast, said the attack was the result of the government’s failure to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and arrive at a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said that “too many children were paying with their lives” and to many parents “were forced to bury their children.
No country should require its citizens to “pay this cost.”
The government’s talk about deterrence and a strong hand won’t bring about any resolutions to the violence, Gal-On said. “We shouldn’t tolerate a government that says that this is the best of all possible worlds.” Herb Keinon and Maayan Groisman contributed to this story.