JERUSALEM (AP) — The body of an Israeli soldier was found with stab wounds near a West Bank settlement south of Jerusalem early on Thursday, the military said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the killing as a terrorist attack and pledged to bring the perpetrator to justice.
According to an army statement, Israeli troops and police officers were searching the area near the Etzion settlement bloc where the body was found in the "early morning hours." Israeli troops entered the nearby Palestinian village of Beit Fajar as part of the search.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said that the soldier was a student in a pre-military Jewish seminary program and was neither armed nor in uniform. He said the military was investigating the circumstances of his death.
The soldier was later identified as 19-year-old Dvir Sorek, from the West Bank settlement of Ofra. His remains were found near the military seminary where he studied in the West Bank.
Rabbi Shlomo Wilk, head of the yeshiva where Sorek studied, told Israel Radio that the student had gone to Jerusalem to buy presents for the school's faculty. Wilk said Sorek had called a friend and said he would return on time.
"When he was late, we started to worry," Wilk said. "Fairly quickly we understood that something wasn't right and we got the police involved."
Netanyahu issued a statement saying that security forces were "in pursuit now in order to capture the despicable terrorist and bring him to account."
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin offered his condolences and said the security forces were "pursuing the murderers and will not rest until we find them."
"Our prayers this morning are with the family of the murdered soldier and our hearts grieve for the life cut short," Rivlin said. "We fight terrorism without compromise to ensure the security of our people."
Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians claim the territories as part of a future state.
Most of the international community considers Israel's West Bank settlements illegal and an obstacle to creating a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel considers the territories "disputed," and says the fate of the settlements should be determined through negotiations, which have been moribund for years.
Yair Golan, a former army general and a Democratic Union party candidate in the elections next month, said in an interview with Israel's Kan television that the settlements near where Sorek was found "needed to be encircled ages ago with a security fence that would help to separate between the Jewish population and the Palestinian population."
He added that a diplomatic solution to the conflict was necessary.
Israel is holding an unprecedented repeat election on September 17 after Netanyahu failed to form a government following April's vote.