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Palestinian toddler killed; Jewish extremists suspected

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Suspected Jewish assailants attacked a Palestinian village in the West Bank early Friday and torched two homes, killing a young child and critically wounding at least three people, Israeli and Palestinian officials said. The Israeli prime minister called the incident a "terror attack."

According to the Israeli military, the suspects entered the village of Duma, near the city of Nablus, where they set the homes ablaze and scrawled graffiti, including "Long live the Messiah," ''revenge" and "price tag."

The attackers threw Molotov cocktails, or fire bombs, at the houses, the military said.

The slain child was identified as one-and-a-half year old Ali Dawabsheh. His four-year-old brother and parents were among the wounded, according to Gassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official from the Nablus area.

Daghlas said Jewish settlers broke the window of a house and flung a burning object inside, "causing a quick and huge fire." Daghlas said three people were wounded aside from the child, while the Israeli military said four people were wounded. The discrepancy was not immediately clear.

"Setters in the Nablus area are very aggressive. They never stop attacking Palestinians in their villages and the Israeli government needs to put an end to these aggressions," Daghlas said.

It was the worst attack by Israeli extremists since a Palestinian teen was torched to death after three Israelis were killed by kidnappers a year ago, the Reuters news agency points out.

The Israeli military said it sent troop reinforcements to the West Bank, fearing the incident could trigger unrest.

Jewish extremists have for years attacked Palestinian property, as well as mosques, churches and even Israeli military bases in opposition to what they see as the Israeli government's favorable policies toward the Palestinians, although it is rare for anyone to be killed in such attacks.

Critics say police have been slow to apprehend the assailants and Palestinians say the military has failed to protect them from attacks by militant Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

The attacks, known as "price tag," have been condemned across the Israeli political spectrum and condemnations came swiftly Friday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issuing a stern statement against the violence.

"I am shocked over this reprehensible and horrific act. This is an act of terrorism in every respect. The State of Israel takes a strong line against terrorism regardless of who the perpetrators are," he said.

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner called the incident "nothing short of a barbaric act of terrorism."

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel would not allow "Jewish terrorists" to carry out such acts.

"We will not allow Jewish terrorists to harm the lives of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria," he said in a statement, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name. "We will fight against them firmly and with all means and tools at our disposal."

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