An Israeli military court handed life sentences to four Palestinians found guilty of murdering an Israeli couple in a terror attack in the West Bank last October.
Eitam and Naama Henkin were shot dead as they were traveling in their car near the West Bank settlement of Itamar on October 1, 2015. Their four small children – the oldest was nine years old – were in the back seat and witnessed their murder, but were uninjured.
Four days later the IDF arrested a four-man Hamas terror cell over the shooting.
“The military court in Samaria handed two life sentences and another 30 years to each of the four members of the Hamas cell that carried out the attack in which Eitam and Naama Henkin were murdered in front of their children,” the IDF said in a statement.
The four were named as Yahia Muhammad Naif Abdullah Hajj Hamad, who carried out the shooting itself; Samir Zahir Ibrahim Kusah, the driver of the car, who has also been linked to previous terror attacks; gunman Karem Lufti Fatahi Razek, who was wounded by gunfire from one of his fellow cell members during the attack; and Zir Ziad Jamal Amar, who cleared the way for the car to carry out the attack, the prosecution said.
At the time of their arrests, the Shin Bet security service named the cell leader as Ragheb Ahmad Muhammad Aliwi, a previously jailed Hamas fighter from Nablus, who allegedly recruited the other four, instructed them on how to carry out attacks and provided them with weapons.
According to prosecutors, the four were part of a cell working for Hamas that planned to carry out shooting attacks against Israelis. The men allegedly carried out several earlier shooting attacks against Israeli targets.
More than a month before the Henkin killings, Kusah and Hajj Hamad shot at an Israeli car near the settlement of Enav. Hajj Hamad fired 20 rounds at the car but only caused light injuries to the driver, Ronen Edri.
Frustrated by their lack of success, the group decided to kidnap Israelis instead, the indictment said.
On the night of the attack, the group identified the Henkins’ car as a suitable target and began following it, the prosecution said. When they caught up with the vehicle, Hajj Hamad fired dozens of rounds at the Henkins, who were driving with their four children, aged 4 months, 4, 7 and 9, in the back. Eitam Henkin was hit and the car came to a halt at the side of the road.
Hajj Hamad and Razek then approached the vehicle with the intention of kidnapping the occupants, but the gravely wounded Eitam tried to fight them off, even attempting to take the gun away from Razek. Alarmed at his show of resistance, Hajja Hamad shot him at short range, killing him, and then turned his gun on Naama. The children were not hit by the gunfire, and the attackers later claimed they had decided not to harm them.
In November security forces destroyed the Nablus residences of Hajj Hamad, Kusah and Razek as a punitive measure. Aliwi’s home was demolished in December.
The killing of the Henkins was seen as the start of a wave of Palestinian terror attacks that have so far killed 33 Israelis and four other nationals. Hundreds more have been injured in the spate of attacks, though the violence had dramatically waned of late.
Some 200 Palestinians have also been killed, two-thirds of them while carrying out attacks and the rest in clashes with troops, Israeli officials say.