Suspected Palestinian militants bludgeoned to death a settler Friday in the third killing of Israelis in the West Bank in as many weeks, police said, prompting calls to suspend peace talks.
The wife of the murdered man, a retired army colonel, was also injured in the night-time attack on their home at the settlement of Brosh in the northern Jordan Valley.
The attack was followed by calls from rightwing Israeli MPs for the suspension of low profile peace talks between the two sides and of the expected release of more Palestinian prisoners.
Army radio named the dead man as Sarya Ofer, a former commander of Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip and of various special forces units.
Police said Ofer's wife had suffered minor injuries.
They also said the killing was "definitely" the work of Palestinian militants, but an army spokeswoman said it was still too early to say what the motive was.
Public radio said the couple had been in their home at about 1:00 am (2200 GMT) when they heard a noise outside and dogs barking.
Ofer went outside to investigate and was attacked with iron bars and axes by two Palestinians, the station said. His wife Monique was also injured but escaped and raised the alarm.
The radio station said the couple lived alone at the isolated property, which they ran as a village guest house. There were no visitors at the time of the attack.
Local council leader David Elhayani said he arrived on the scene about half an hour after the assault.
"It was a brutal murder," he told public radio.
"At the moment everybody’s assessment is that this was a (Palestinian) nationalist attack whose goal was murder.
"Even after the woman fled the house they ran after her calling out to one another in Arabic 'Where is she?'"
News website Ynet said Monique Ofer crawled through the darkness alone and with no mobile phone before reaching a main road where she flagged down a passing motorist.
The army said roadblocks were set up in the area of the attack and, hours after the killing, security forces were still sweeping the rocky surroundings for the perpetrators.
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Police said later that a number of people had been detained for questioning, although they were not necessarily murder suspects.
Army radio said five Palestinians were being interrogated, and an AFP photographer saw soldiers leading away handcuffed men.
"No-one will rest until the murderers are brought to justice," Israeli President Shimon Peres said in a statement.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel, a settler from the far-right Jewish Home party, called for action against the Palestinians in response.
"This murder necessitates a political response, and that is halting the talks, halting the release of terrorists and paying attention to settlement," he told army radio.
Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon, a hardline member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, agreed.
"If we need to stop (talks) for a number of months to fight terror and stop the incitement, then that's what we need to do," he told public radio.
The attack came less than a week after a nine-year-old Israeli girl was lightly wounded as she played in her garden in the West Bank settlement of Psagot.
Her injuries have been described as caused by both gunshot and stabbing. Two young Palestinian suspects were arrested on Monday, Haaretz reported.
Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath on Friday slammed what he called Israel's unwillingness to coordinate on security.
"Under our (security) agreement, the Israelis should have come to us immediately asking for security coordination" following the latest violent incidents, he told AFP.
Shaath criticised a unilateral Israeli operation launched after the Psagot incident, saying the army "almost reoccupied (the town of) Al-Bira, searching house by house without any attempt to ask the Palestinian police to help".
On September 22, an Israeli soldier was shot dead in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, in what the army believes was a Palestinian sniper attack, although no suspects have been arrested.
An army spokeswoman said on Friday there was so far no progress in the investigation.
On September 21, a 20-year off-duty soldier was found murdered near the West Bank city of Qalqiliya. A Palestinian arrested as a suspect has reportedly confessed, but the motive and circumstances of the killing are still unclear.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians were relaunched in late July after being stalled for three years, but few details have emerged after several rounds of discussions.