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Concern for Settler Safety Grows After Attack on West Bank Family

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Settler groups launched protests and called for a suspension of the Israeli- Palestinian peace talks after a terrorist attacked a West Bank settler family.

A Palestinian infiltrated the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Michmas, located near Ramallah, early Tuesday morning, stabbing to death one of the residents and seriously wounding his pregnant wife.

The settler was identified as Daniel Frei, 28, who emigrated from London seven years ago.

He was buried at Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuchot Cemetery on Tuesday night.

His wife, Mara, 29, a new Israeli immigrant from Chicago who was three months pregnant, was listed in serious but stable condition at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Karem after she suffered stab wounds to the upper body.

Doctors were unable to save the life of the couple’s unborn baby.

About 50 families live at Ma’aleh Michmas. Unlike other settlements in the West Bank, there is no perimeter fence surrounding the community.

Local leaders said they had opposed the idea of fence because of the limit it would place on the settlement’s expansion.

But after the day’s events, they were reportedly considering putting up a fence.

Settler leaders warned that the predawn stabbing was a sign of things to come when the Israel Defense Force redeploys in the West Bank under the next phase of Palestinian self-rule.

“Just as Jericho, as we warned, turned into a hothouse and place of refuge for Arab terrorists, the same thing is going to be repeated in the seven major cities the government is attempting to turn over to Arafat” in the West Bank, said Yehiel Leiter, a member of the Yesha Council, which represents settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But Foreign Minister Shimon Peres rejected demands to halt the negotiations with the Palestinians.

“There was terror before the peace process, and if there will not be peace, there will be even more terror,” he told Israel Radio.

The incident occurred about 2:30 a.m., when a terrorist entered the settlement.

Daniel Frei heard a noise outside his home, and when he walked out to investigate, he was stabbed to death.

When his wife followed him outside, she too, was attacked.

The couple’s 19-month-old daughter was asleep in the house when the attack took place and was unharmed.

Security forces launched searches for the attacker, who fled the scene. Israeli security forces imposed a curfew on some of the surrounding Arab villages.

Israel Radio reported that an anonymous caller phoned a news agency in Jerusalem and claimed responsibility for the attack in the name of George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Right-wing demonstrators tried to block roads at various intersections in the West Bank and Jerusalem on Tuesday night to protest the attack. Police dispersed them, detaining some for questioning.

Members of the Yesha Council met with Interior Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff Ehud Barak on Tuesday night.

Although the meeting had been scheduled before Tuesday’s attack, the incident brought into sharp focus their concerns about security when Palestinian self- rule is extended in the West Bank.

Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the interim phase agreement have recently been deadlocked on a number of issues, including security arrangements in the West Bank town of Hebron, Palestinian prisoner releases and issues surrounding the holding of Palestinian elections.

Peres and Palestine Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat were reportedly scheduled to meet later this week in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Taba in an effort to overcome the obstacles.

The evolving accord has prompted criticisms from the IDF commander in charge of the West Bank, Maj. Gen. Ilan Biran, who said that after an IDF troop redeployment in the West Bank, “it will be much more complicated” to prevent terror attacks on Israelis.

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