An attack on two women that left an American tourist dead and the other in hospital with several knife wounds appears to have been politically motivated, Israeli police said Sunday.

Police found the body of Christine Logan, 40, in a forest just outside Jerusalem, her hands bound behind her back and covered with blood from multiple stab wounds.

Her friend, Kaye Susan Wilson, a naturalized Israeli citizen originally from Britain, survived the attack by playing dead, then running to a nearby road and waving down a passing police car.

Wilson told Israeli media that she and Logan were hiking in the hills southwest of Jerusalem Saturday when they were approached by two Arab men. She said the men asked them for water, and then she and her friend walked away.

When the women headed back to the main trail, they were suddenly and brutally attacked.

"It all happened so fast. They came and attacked us," Wilson, 46, told reporters.

She said one of the men took out a large knife -- "like a bread knife with a serrated edge," Wilson said -- and the men began to stab them.

"It was clear that they came to kill," she added. "Who carries around a knife like that?"

At one point, Wilson said one of her attackers 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."

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said authorities have mounted a massive manhunt for the assailants.

"The main lead line is that the attack was nationalistic, but we haven't ruled out the possibility that it was criminal."

CTV's Scott Laurie said the two women were hiking in an area right on the border between Israel and the disputed West Bank. Police quickly sealed off a nearby highway leading to the West Bank.

"The fear among investigators was that whoever did this may have tried to flee into a Palestinian village close by," he said.

"The suspicion is that in the area there may be small cells of people involved in ‘terror.'"

Police said there were no signs that Wilson had been sexually assaulted or robbed.

Wilson said she escaped by pretending to be dead, even as she could hear her friend dying. She waited for two minutes, then made her way back to a parking lot several hundred metres away.

After Wilson reported the incident, police and paramedics launched a search and located Logan's body early Sunday buried under some bushes, about 20 metres from where the attack was believed to have occurred.

Around midday, Israeli police raided a hospital outside the nearby West Bank town of Bethlehem in search of suspects, believing the assailants might have been injured in the struggle.

There was no claim of responsibility, which Palestinian militants usually make after deadly attacks. That suggested that the attack, even if politically motivated, was not planned.

The killing occurred just ahead of Christmas -- a peak tourist season for Israel and the Palestinians. Israel's Tourism Ministry declined comment.

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.