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Israeli settler bludgeoned to death

Suspected Palestinian militants have bludgeoned to death a settler in the third killing of Israelis in the West Bank in as many weeks, police say.

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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 on Friday.

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 when they heard a noise outside and dogs barking.

Ofer went 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.

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.