The Israel Defense Forces deployed hundreds of soldiers in the West Bank on Friday as the military stepped up efforts to apprehend the Palestinian gunmen who killed Eitam and Naama Henkin on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Friday extended condolences to the Henkin family and said the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
The Israeli couple, in their early 30s, were ambushed while driving with their four children between the settlements of Itamar and Elon Moreh around 9 p.m. Thursday, by two Palestinians who opened fire with a handgun and a rifle. Both parents were struck multiple times in their upper bodies, paramedics said, and were pronounced dead at the scene. The children, aged 9, 7, 4 and four months, were unharmed. The attackers remain at large.
The Henkins were buried in Jerusalem on Friday afternoon, with thousands in attendance.
In the West Bank, hundreds of Israeli troops were hunting Friday for the suspected Palestinian terrorists. The Abdel Qader al-Husseini Brigades, a group affiliated with Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Israeli security forces were conducting an “intensive search” on the ground, combined with intelligence efforts, said army spokesman Arye Shalicar.
Apprehensive of rising tensions, the army said it would be deploying “four battalions in order to prevent an escalation of violence in the area adjacent to the location of the attack.”
An AFP journalist saw Israeli soldiers searching cars along roads around the attack site.
Also Friday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon toured the site of the attack with Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, and vowed the terrorists would be swiftly caught.
The security forces will “spare no efforts to arrest the killers and their sponsors,” Ya’alon said.
In a Friday statement, Mogherini’s spokesman condemned the attack and offered condolences to the victims’ families.
“The killing of an Israeli couple has left four young children orphaned and, once again, civilians have been targeted so as to cause terrible suffering and to try to undermine any possibility of a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Mogherini’s spokesman said in a statement. “The EU expresses its condolences to the Henkin family.”
The statement urged “restraint and calm” on all sides, and said “the perpetrators of this act must be brought to justice.”
Hamas rulers welcomed Thursday’s attack and dubbed it “heroic,” but stopped short of claiming responsibility. The Palestinian Authority has not commented on the attack.