JERUSALEM – Israeli police discovered the body of an American woman, hands bound and full of stab wounds, in a rugged forest outside Jerusalem Sunday, a day after a friend said Arab assailants attacked the pair during a hike in the hills.
The friend, who suffered light wounds but managed to escape, said one of the two attackers approached them with what looked like a long bread knife and carefully removed her Star of David necklace before stabbing her where it had hung.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said authorities were treating the attack as political in nature, while not ruling out that it could have been criminal. Police said there were no signs that the wounded women had been sexually assaulted or robbed.
Rosenfeld identified the slain woman as Christine Logan, a 40-year-old American tourist. Her hometown was not released.
Logan's friend, Kaye Susan Wilson, reported Logan missing on Saturday after the two were attacked in a forest near the Jewish farming community of Mata, some 12 miles (20 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem. The forest is inside Israel but close to the border with the West Bank and the Palestinian villages of Husan and Wadi Fukin.
Wilson, a naturalized Israeli citizen originally from Britain, managed to escape, although covered in blood and with her hands bound behind her back.
Speaking to Israeli reporters from her hospital bed, Wilson described the attack, saying she and her friend were resting in the woods when two Arab men approached and asked for water.
She said they felt "something wasn't right" and tried to walk away. Wilson said they thought the men had left, but she took out a small knife anyway — apparently to protect herself. The men then reappeared and attacked.
"It all happened so fast," Wilson said. One of the men took out what looked like "a bread knife with a serrated edge," she said. Logan "became hysterical" and the men began to stab them.
"It was clear that they came to kill," she said. "Who carries around a knife like that?"
At one point, she said, one of the assailants gently took a Star of David chain off her neck, "then turned me around and stabbed in the place where the Star of David had been."
Wilson said she pretended to be dead, even though she could hear her friend dying. "Her breath sounded like bubbles," she said.
Wilson said she waited for two minutes, then made her way back to a parking lot several hundred yards (meters) away where she found help. She said the assailants had tied both women's hands behind their backs.
Hospital staff cut off the interview after several minutes. Later in the day, they said Wilson — exhausted, traumatized and suffering from light stab wounds — no longer wanted to speak to the media.
Wilson's face was obscured in TV footage of the interview, though Yair Ettinger of Israel's Haaretz daily said she had a black eye.
Hundreds of troops, police and volunteers searched through the night for Logan, treating the case as a kidnapping. Military checkpoints were tightened to monitor traffic.
Police and paramedics discovered Logan's body Sunday under some bushes in the hilly terrain near where the attack allegedly occurred. Paramedics were seen taking the body away in an orange plastic bag.
A manhunt continued throughout the day, but after nightfall, no arrests had been reported.
There was no claim of responsibility, which Palestinian militants usually make after deadly attacks. That suggests that the assault, even if politically motivated, was likely the work of individuals and not a militant group.
Political violence in Israel has declined compared to earlier in the decade, and street violence is rare.
The search spread to the West Bank, where Israeli troops raided a hospital near Bethlehem, believing the attackers might have been injured in the struggle.
"I saw there were ... jeeps and lots of soldiers surrounding the hospital," said Edmund Shehadeh, director of the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation. He said the troops wanted a list of patients and interviewed doctors and nurses during the half-hour investigation.
A senior Palestinian security official in the West Bank said Israeli authorities had told Palestinian forces to take "precautionary measures" — reflecting improved security coordination between the sides in recent years.
"So far, there is no indication that the killers moved to the Palestinian territories," the official said, adding that Israel had given no information like ages, names or physical descriptions of the attackers. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing sensitive security information.
The U.S. Embassy said it had no information on the case, but said it was in touch with Israeli authorities.
The killing occurred just ahead of Christmas, an important tourist season for Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel's Tourism Ministry expressed regret, but said it did not expect the incident to affect what is expected to be a record year for tourism. "While the motive remains unclear, it would appear that the killing did not target a tourist in particular," the ministry said.
Dr. Yuval Weiss, director of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, told Army Radio he expected Wilson to be released within several days.
This would not be the first time that hikers were attacked and killed.
In the 1990s, four Israeli hikers were killed in two separate attacks in the West Bank.