The Human Rights Watch NGO on Saturday slammed the “despicable” murder of Israeli couple Eitam and Naama Henkin, who were shot dead Thursday as they drove in the West Bank with their four young children, and called on Israel to “prosecute those responsible.”
“The killing of a husband and wife in their car while their four children watched is a despicable act that flies in the face of law and decency,” HRW’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said in a statement published Saturday on the watchdog’s website. “No political motive can justify targeting civilians.”
“Civilian residents of Israeli settlements in the West Bank are protected under international law and not subject to attack,” Whitson said, adding that “Israel still has an obligation to remove them from the unlawful settlements.”
Speaking as the Henkins were laid to rest in Jerusalem on Friday, President Reuven Rivlin pledged that settlement construction would continue. Just as Israel never built because of terror, it wouldn’t stop building because of it, he said. The couple’s eldest child, nine-year-old Matan, recited the Jewish Mourner’s Prayer at his parents’ funeral.
HRW, which is often viewed as critical of Israel, also urged Jerusalem to take steps to ensure that Palestinian civilians are not targeted by revenge attacks. A Palestinian car was torched late Thursday in the West Bank village of Bitilu in what appeared to be a revenge attack for the deadly shooting. Photos of the incident showed graffiti daubed on a nearby wall reading “Revenge, Henkin.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Friday to increase efforts to track down and bring to justice the terrorists who killed the couple.
Meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in New York, Netanyahu condemned Palestinian Authority officials for applauding the terrorist attack, and called on the international community to hold Ramallah accountable for its failure to denounce terrorism.
“This murder will not pass without a response,” Netanyahu said. “We have already increased our forces in the field. We are changing the forces’ operations in the field, and we will find these murderers and bring them to justice. Most importantly, we will take action that will ensure there’s no reward for terror.”
If the Palestinians don’t fight terrorism, Israel will, the prime minister vowed. “That’s the call that the international community must place on the Palestinian Authority, and immediately. But I want to make this clear: we’re going to fight these terrorists.”
The prime minister noted that he had yet to hear Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounce the deadly attack. Abbas maintained his silence on the killings during remarks Friday upon his return to Ramallah from the UN General Assembly in New York.
The Abdel Qader al-Husseini Brigades, a group affiliated with Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, said Friday that it had carried out the attack.
Raphael Ahren and Marissa Newman contributed to this report