Jeffrey Heller
February 11, 2010 - 1:00am

A Palestinian policeman who stabbed to death an Israeli soldier in the West Bank said he was "tired of living", an Israeli general said on Thursday, indicating a suicidal motive for the attack.

Mahmoud Khatib, 34, killed Ihab Chattib, a career non-commissioned officer from Israel's Druze Arab minority and not related to the attacker, at a road junction in the occupied territory on Wednesday. The assailant was then run down by an Israeli motorist and arrested.

"I met this murderer shortly after the stabbing. He said he was tired of living, and this looks like something that is related to his personal circumstances," Israeli Brigadier-General Nitzan Alon said, without elaborating.

Alon's comments on Israeli radio appeared to suggest Khatib may have hoped he would be killed while carrying out the attack on Chattib, who was sitting in a military jeep.

"We didn't find any sign in his home of an organisational affiliation or of clear ideological reasons," Alon said.

A senior Palestinian security official told Reuters that Khatib, a captain and a 10-year veteran of the police force, had a clean record "consistent with the policy of the security forces, which do not condone attacks on Israelis".

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's government, which is pursuing a law-and-order drive in the hope of sidelining Hamas rivals and preparing for statehood, issued a rare condemnation of the attack, calling for "peaceful resistance" to Israel.

"This is an isolated incident and it should not affect the the security coordination with Israel," the Palestinian security official said.

Khatib's father, Youssef, said his son, who holds a college degree in psychology, had served most recently in the office of the chief of police in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

He said Khatib belonged to Abbas's Fatah faction and had left for work on Wednesday as normal. "My son is very mild-mannered and I do not believe he would do this," he said.

Ordinary Palestinians voiced mixed reaction to the stabbing.

"This incident did not come out of thin air. A lack of hope drives Palestinians to carry out unexpected things," said Misbah Masamreh, 63, a Ramallah bakery shop owner.

Another Ramallah resident said despite a lack of progress in peace talks with Israel, suspended for more than a year, Palestinians should not commit such attacks.

"Why to do such things? Will this get us closer to our aim despite the Israeli procrastination? The answer is no," said Idrees Natour, 49. (Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Additional reporting by Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah and Ali Sawafta, Editing by XX)


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