Israel Police vehicles are seen at the Afula central bus station, Nov. 13, 2013
Israel Police vehicles are seen at the Afula central bus station, Nov. 13, 2013. Photo by Rami Shlush
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Eden Attias
Eden Attias.

A 19-year-old Israeli soldier was stabbed to death Wednesday morning in an apparent terrorist attack.

Medical sources said Pvt. Eden Attias of Upper Nazareth was critically wounded when he was stabbed several times by a fellow passenger, a Palestinian youth from Jenin, who was in Israel illegally. The soldier, who was on his way to his army base when the attack occurred, was taken to hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds.

His funeral will be held in Upper Nazareth on Wednesday at 11:00 P.M.

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The incident occurred on a bus in the northern Israeli city of Afula that was en route from Nazareth to Tel Aviv.

According to initial reports, Border Police and an armed soldier managed to restrain the assailant as he attempted to escape. He was then arrested by police, taken into custody for questioning and transferred to Poriya Hospital, Tiberias, due to bruises he sustained. After being treated there, the assailant was sent to the Shin Bet security service for further interrogation.

Israel's northern police commander, Ronny Attia, said in remarks broadcast on Army Radio that the Palestinian carried out the attack because his relatives were in prison in Israel.

Security services are attempting to ascertain how the stabber made his way into Israeli territory; the West Bank separation barrier is considered to be fully sealed in the area of Jenin. Security sources said the stabber's brothers are known to be connected to terror activities, but did not elaborate.

The father of the assailant, who was detained for questioning,  told Haaretz that his son left the house about a month ago, and has not heard  from him since. He said he was surprised by the news.

"Israeli security services called me and wanted me to come in for questioning. They are also looking for other family members. I know some have already been arrested. I have no explanation for what happened and don't know why he did it," the father said. He also said that his permit to reside in Israel was revoked and all five of his other children were called in for questioning.

A woman who works at a store at the Afula bus station described what she saw: "The bus stopped and passengers got off. Only the terrorist and two soldiers - one male and one female - remained on board. Suddenly I saw the girl come running out, saying the soldier had been stabbed. The terrorist then tried to escape through the back door, but Border Police who were returning to the bus stopped him. The solider, who was covered in blood, was taken out. It was a shocking sight."

Two paramedics who were among the first to respond, Hadar Bachar and Nati Liani, also discribed the scene. "We arrived at the site very quickly and were led into an intercity bus that had stopped to let down passengers at Afula's central bus station. A man aged about 18 was seated in one of the seats near the back of the bus - he was conscious, and had been stabbed several times all over his body. He was in a very bad state. After a short preliminary treatment, we quickly transferred him to the emergency ward at Haemek Hospital, where he was transferred to an operating room."

Police have sectioned off the area surrounding the bus station and security forces are sweeping the area. Following the incident, Attia decided to increase police presence at transportation hubs and crowded sites countrywide.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon reacted to the attack on his Facebook page: "I demanded the prime minister halt the release of terrorists following the stabbing attack in Afula, in which an IDF soldier was murdered in his sleep on a bus."

Likud Minister Yuval Steinitz blamed the attack on Palestinian anti-Israeli propaganda.

MK Nissan Slominski (Habayit Hayahudi) called the attack "another direct result of Israel's policy of prisoner release."

"The current situation, which finds Israel placing its own sons and daughters in danger while in the Palestinian territories people celebrate the release of murderers, is unbearable and must be stopped immediately," Slominski said.

The attack comes a day before the one-year anniversary of Operation Pillar of Defense, an event being marked in Gaza and the West Bank.

Last week, an Israeli mother and daughter were wounded after Palestinians threw a firebomb at their car, which was driving near the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, southeast of Bethlehem.

The moving vehicle caught fire and the mother and daughter, who were were lightly wounded, were taken to a nearby hospital by Magen David Adom medical personnel.