Police officers and IDF soldiers set up roadblocks in the area surrounding the West Bank settlement of Otniel Sunday night as they searched for a Palestinian man who stabbed an Israeli woman to death in her home and then fled.
Just after 5:00 p.m., the terrorist broke into Dafna Meir’s home and after a struggle in the doorway, killed the 38-year-old mother. Three of her four children were home at the time. One of the three, Ranana, a 17-year-old girl, gave security authorities a description of the terrorist.
Paramedics from the Magen David Adom ambulance service were unable to save Meir, a nurse and pre-marital counselor. The attacker, whose identity was not immediately known, fled the scene of the crime. His escape was reportedly seen on the settlement’s security cameras.
Soldiers and police officers launched a manhunt for the attacker, setting up checkpoints in the area and firing flares into the air to provide lighting. The killer was believed to have fled to a nearby Arab village, possibly Khirbet Karme, located just north of Otniel, according to Israeli media.
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Col. Yariv Ben-Ezra, commander of the IDF’s Judea Regional Brigade, led the search after the terrorist, who reportedly had a work permit which allowed him into the Jewish settlement.
Police took forensic samples from the scene of the deadly stabbing attack and questioned witnesses as security forces continued their hunt for the suspect, who they believed had left the settlement.
Meir was described by her neighbors as a “joyful” person — a nurse by profession and a foster parent to two children in addition to her four biological children.
She worked at Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center and was also a pre-marital counselor for brides.
“She was a happy woman, joyful, optimistic, driven, responsible, loving,” a neighbor, Yishai Klein, told Ynet. “Everyone in the settlement who was in pain knew they could call her 24 hours a day.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed the terrorist “will pay” for the death of Meir. “Dafna Meir, mother of six, was brutally murdered this evening by a Palestinian terrorist inside her home in Otniel,” he wrote on Facebook. “In the name of all Israelis, I want to give strength to all the children of the family. All of us are hurting and share in the painful grief. We will find the terrorist, and he will pay the full price for this heinous murder.”
Only residents of Otniel were allowed to enter and exit the area, according to an IDF spokesperson.
The army and local government officials instructed residents to remain in their houses as they searched for the attacker.
“The details of the stabbing incident are still initial. Residents are requested not to leave their homes,” a spokesperson for the Hebron Hills Regional Council told Army Radio.
Residents reported hearing aircraft overhead, as soldiers from the IDF’s Judea Regional Brigade and other nearby units began combing the area for the fugitive terrorist.
חיפושים באזור דרום הר חברון אחר מחבל שדקר למוות הערב אישה בביתה בהתנחלות עתניאל pic.twitter.com/W34EProSX2
— Ilan Zalayat (@ilanzalayat) January 17, 2016
Meir’s death was confirmed by Magen Daved Adom rescue service after medics failed to revive her at the scene.
“It was a difficult thing to see. We saw an approximately 40-year-old woman unconscious, not breathing, without a pulse,” MDA senior medic Noam Bar said. “She had a number of penetration wounds on her upper body. We performed CPR for an extended period of time, but in the end were forced to pronounce her dead.”