A pickax-wielding Palestinian terrorist provided the new government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with its first major test Thursday, less than 48 hours after taking office.

The terrorist infiltrated the Jewish community of Bat Ayin in Etzion Bloc region near Bethlehem and murdered Shlomo Nativ, a 13-year-old Israeli boy, splitting his skull with a pickax.

The terrorist then axed a 7-year-old boy, Yair Gamliel, also wounding him in the head, but he was taken to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and was reported to be out of danger. He is the son of Ofer Gamliel, one of three men who were convicted in 2003 for a bomb plot against a Palestianian girls school in East Jerusalem. The elder Gamliel is serving a 15-year sentence for the plot.

A Bat Ayin resident, Avinoam Maimon, fought with the assailant and wrestled the pickax from him. Afterward, the terrorist fled the area.

“He tried to stab me. I kicked him, he kicked me…,” he said.

“I saw the 7-year-old boy running, the ax-wielding terrorist was running after him,” Mr. Maimon said. “I ran toward the terrorist and he tried to raise the ax over me with the aim of killing me… First, I caught the hand holding the ax so that he couldn’t kill me. I somehow managed to grab the axe. He succeeded in escaping and I shouted to run after him.”

A terrorist group calling itself the Martyrs of Imad Mughniyeh, named for the Hezbollah terror mastermind who was killed last year, claimed responsibility for the attacks in an e-mail to The Associated Press. The same e-mail also said the terror group Islamic Jihad also was involved.

Shaul Goldstein, head of the Etzion bloc’s regional council, told the Jerusalem Post he believed the murder was intended to test the new Israeli government and its response.

“This attack demonstrates clearly that we must not release anymore terrorists,” Mr. Goldstein said.

Mr. Netanyahu promised a tough and speedy response to the attack, saying he viewed it with the “utmost gravity.”

Israeli security forces combed the area throughout the day in search of the killer.

The funeral for Shlomo Nativ was held at the Etzion cemetery; he is survived by his parents and eight brothers and sisters.

The Etzion bloc, which hovers over the strategic Hebron-Jerusalem road, was founded in the 1930s and was overrun by the Arab legion in the aftermath of the 1948 war.

The Arab legion massacred the largest community in the Etzion bloc, Kfar Etzion, on the day of Israel’s independence in 1948.

In 1967, after the Six Day War, Israel reclaimed the area and reconstructed the Jewish communities which comprise the Etzion bloc.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com