Israel prime minister mourns soldier's death

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JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel responded Sunday to the killing of an Israeli soldier by a Palestinian co-worker with a vow to fight "terror with all the means at our disposal," as other politicians suggested that the episode threatened Israel's nascent peace talks with the Palestinians.

"The people of Israel share your loss," Mr. Netanyahu said in a message to the soldier's family. "This atrocious act proves once again that the battle against terror is unending."

The Israeli authorities said that the co-worker, Nidal Omar, 42, had persuaded the soldier, Sgt. Tomer Hazan, 20, with whom he worked at a restaurant outside Tel Aviv, to get into a taxi with him Friday. Mr. Omar took him to a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and then to his family's village nearby, later killing him and hiding his body in a well, they said.

Mr. Omar hoped to use the soldier's body as leverage to pressure Israel to release his brother from prison, officials said, a strategy the military said had been a growing threat from Palestinian militants in recent months.

It remained unclear Sunday how Mr. Omar had persuaded Sgt. Hazan to go with him to the village, which is unusual for Israelis, and something the authorities constantly warn soldiers against. But a woman who identified herself as a friend of the dead soldier told Army Radio on Sunday that Mr. Omar had tried to lure Israelis before, and other reports in the Israeli news media suggested he might have used a business or criminal deal as pretext.

Protesters -- who noted that Mr. Omar had been hired despite lacking the required permit to work or live in Israel -- continued to gather Sunday in Bat Yam, a coastal city south of Tel Aviv, outside the shuttered restaurant, where memorial candles spelled out the soldier's name and the owner posted a banner expressing sorrow. A funeral for Sgt. Hazan, who had been in the air force, was planned for 4 p.m. Sunday.

Sgt. Hazan's killing followed several episodes this summer in which Israeli soldiers killed Palestinians during night raids in the West Bank, heightening tension between the two sides as a series of secret negotiations took place.

The death reignited Israeli fears amid reports that 37 plots to abduct soldiers had been thwarted so far this year, far more than in 2012, and revived the debate over Israel's release last month of the first 26 of a promised 100-plus long-serving Palestinian prisoners as part of the Washington-brokered peace talks.

By Jodi Rudoren

JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel responded Sunday to the killing of an Israeli soldier by a Palestinian co-worker with a vow to fight "terror with all the means at our disposal," as other politicians suggested that the episode threatened Israel's nascent peace talks with the Palestinians.

"The people of Israel share your loss," Mr. Netanyahu said in a message to the soldier's family. "This atrocious act proves once again that the battle against terror is unending."

The Israeli authorities said that the co-worker, Nidal Omar, 42, had persuaded the soldier, Sgt. Tomer Hazan, 20, with whom he worked at a restaurant outside Tel Aviv, to get into a taxi with him Friday. Mr. Omar took him to a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and then to his family's village nearby, later killing him and hiding his body in a well, they said.

Mr. Omar hoped to use the soldier's body as leverage to pressure Israel to release his brother from prison, officials said, a strategy the military said had been a growing threat from Palestinian militants in recent months.

Eight Palestinians in all were arrested Saturday on suspicion of involvement in the case.

It remained unclear Sunday how Mr. Omar had persuaded Sgt. Hazan to go with him to the village, which is unusual for Israelis, and something the authorities constantly warn soldiers against. But a woman who identified herself as a friend of the dead soldier told Army Radio on Sunday that Mr. Omar had tried to lure Israelis before, and other reports in the Israeli news media suggested he might have used a business or criminal deal as pretext.

Protesters -- who noted that Mr. Omar had been hired despite lacking the required permit to work or live in Israel -- continued to gather Sunday in Bat Yam, a coastal city south of Tel Aviv, outside the shuttered restaurant, where memorial candles spelled out the soldier's name and the owner posted a banner expressing sorrow. A funeral for Sgt. Hazan, who had been in the air force, was planned for 4 p.m. Sunday.

In a separate case, the police announced that a soldier was arrested Saturday and accused of driving 23 Palestinians lacking work permits from the West Bank into the center of Israel.

Sgt. Hazan's killing followed several episodes this summer in which Israeli soldiers killed Palestinians during night raids in the West Bank, heightening tension between the two sides as a series of secret negotiations took place. The death reignited Israeli fears amid reports that 37 plots to abduct soldiers had been thwarted so far this year, far more than in 2012, and revived the debate over Israel's release last month of the first 26 of a promised 100-plus long-serving Palestinian prisoners as part of the Washington-brokered peace talks.

"The rationale behind the murder of the soldier is tragic proof that the release of terrorists is wrong," said Tzipi Hotovely, a right-wing parliament member from Mr. Netanyahu's Likud Party. "The Palestinian masses now believe that the kidnapping of soldiers or bodies is an effective means to negotiate with Israel on the release of murderers."

But Shelly Yacimovich, a Labor Party lawmaker who leads Israel's opposition, called on Mr. Netanyahu "not to surrender to terror and to continue the negotiations." And Robert Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, noted in a statement that "this shocking murder follows a series of violent incidents in the West Bank" and said that the need for calm is "all the more important at this critical moment in the political process."

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Mr. Omar's imprisoned brother, Nur ad-Din Omar, had been incarcerated since 2003 and was a member of the Tanzim militia, an offshoot of the Fatah faction.

Another brother, Mahmoud Abdullah Omar, said Nur Omar was serving a 30-year sentence for a shooting that had injured Israel soldiers. Mahmoud Omar said six of his brothers were among those arrested Saturday, after a large Israeli force stormed the family compound at 3 a.m. with three dogs and stayed until 4 p.m.

In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 news, the owner, who was not identified, said of Sgt. Hazan, "He was like my son -- there's no other boy like him." He added that Mr. Omar "was on good terms with everyone, nice as can be."

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