Suspects arrested in Itamar attacks

Suspects arrested in Itamar attacks

JERUSALEM — Two teenage Palestinians from a West Bank village have been arrested in the murders of five members of the Fogel family in a West Bank Jewish settlement.

The Israeli military announced Sunday that Israeli security services — including the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service and police — were involved in the arrest of the teens from the nearby village of Awarta in connection with the brutal March 11 murders in Itamar on a Sabbath eve .

Amjad Awad, 19, who worked as a laborer in Israel, and Hakim Awad 18, a high school student, reportedly both admitted to committing the murders. They also staged a reconstruction of the crime, the French news agency AFP reported, citing a Shin Bet briefing document.

Amjad Awad, who is not related to Hakim, reportedly said that he went to the Itamar settlement to “die a martyr’s death.”

The suspects have been identified as members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as are several members of their families, some of whom were arrested as accomplices, though Israeli security services suspect the alleged murderers did not act on behalf of the terrorist organization.

Dozens of residents of Awarta had been detained by Israeli security services in recent weeks in an effort to identify the Fogels’ murderers.

“The murders of five family members, including a 3-month-old baby, constitute a crossing of all red lines,” said IDF spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich. “The IDF has invested in numerous operational and intelligence efforts, and has worked closely with other security forces in order to find those responsible for this vicious murder.”

Udi Fogel, 36, and Ruth Fogel, 35, and their children Yoav, 11; Elad, 4; and Hadas, 3 months, were stabbed to death in their beds. Two sons — Roi, 8, and Yishai, 2 — were sleeping in a side bedroom and were spared. A daughter, Tamar, 12, returned home at midnight from a youth group program to discover the massacre.

The family had been evacuated from the Gaza Strip and lived in Ariel before building a home in the northern West Bank community, near the Palestinian city of Nablus.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday in public remarks that he had been updated in recent weeks and days on the progress of the investigation.

“For the family, this is not a complete answer, but without it they could not be given even a partial answer,” he said, adding that “We will reach murderers anywhere.”