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Israeli man killed in West Bank attack

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli man was killed and his wife injured in what appeared to be an attack by Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank, Israeli officials said on Friday.

Israeli government ministers branded it a terror attack and some urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pull out of peace talks with the Palestinians.

The dead man was named as Sariya Ofer, a retired army officer in his early 60s. Police said he was attacked by unknown assailants outside his house in the Jordan valley in the northern West Bank shortly after midnight.

The man's wife managed to flee, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Local media quoted her as saying the assailants were Arab speakers who had wielded clubs and axes.

No arrests were immediately made and the police said they had not ruled out the possibility that it was a criminal rather than a politically motivated attack.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel from the pro-settler Jewish Home party called on Netanyahu "to immediately cease diplomatic negotiations" with the Palestinians.

Direct Israeli-Palestinian talks resumed in July after three years of stalemate. Since then violence has increased, with three Israelis killed in separate incidents in the occupied territories and eight Palestinians killed by Israeli troops.

A nine-year-old Jewish girl was wounded last week in a West Bank settlement in what police said was a suspected Palestinian militant attack.

Zeev Elkin, the deputy foreign minister from Netanyahu's own Likud party, said the death of Ofer meant Israel should "decide on building and strengthening Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria", using Israel's term for the West Bank.

More than half a million Israelis live in settlements built on territory seized in the 1967 war. Palestinian leaders say the settlements represent the biggest impediment to peace. Israelis say they have a Biblical and historical right to the land.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Angus MacSwan)

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