Otniel Hebron West Bank murder
An Israeli soldier guards near the Jewish settlement of Otniel in the West Bank January 17, 2016, after a female resident of the settlement was stabbed to death in her home REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

A massive manhunt is underway around the West Bank settlement of Otniel near Hebron after an Israeli woman was stabbed to death in her home. The assailant, thought to be a Palestinian, is still on the run this evening (17 January 2016). The woman has been identified as 39-year-old mother-of-six Dafna Meir.

Three of the nurse's six children were said to be home at the time of the attack. The search for the assailant has centred on the nearby Palestinian village of Khirbet Crama. Roadblocks have been set up and troops have entered the village. Drones, dogs and helicopters are also involved in the search for the suspect.

A local medic said attempts to resuscitate Meir failed and she was declared dead at the scene. "We found an unconscious woman about 40 years old, who was not breathing and had no pulse," medic Noam Bar told Haaretz. "She suffered from stab wounds to her upper body."

Commenting on the attack Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the killer would be found and punished. "Dafna Meir, a mother of six, was brutally murdered this evening by a Palestinian terrorist at the entrance to her home in the community of Otniel," said Netanyahu. He continued: "We will find the terrorist and he will pay the full price for this abominable murder."

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said: "This is a horrific tragedy, and I am with you with all of my heart. This is shocking and terrible. At this time of grief, disbelief, and pain, I am sure you are focused on doing all that is needed in order to help the family and all the residents of the community."

Since the beginning of what has been called the Third Intifada in October 2015, 27 Israelis and some 155 Palestinians have died. Most of the Israelis were attacked by lone assailants while Israel says most of the Palestinians who died were attempting to murder Israelis, claims denied by the Palestinian authorities.