Israeli security forces have arrested the Palestinian terror cell that carried out the murders of Naama and Eitam Henkin in the West Bank on Thursday, the Shin Bet security service said Monday evening.
A statement from the Shin Bet said it had carried out the operation in conjunction with the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police. The suspects had been taken in for questioning by the Shin Bet and had admitted their involvement in the attack, the statement said.
The five cell members are Hamas members from Nablus, the Shin Bet said.
The Israeli couple, both in their 30s, were driving in their car with their four children when they came under attack from Palestinian gunmen. The two were shot dead in front of their children; the children were unharmed.
The investigation has so far revealed that the five cell members each had a specific role, the Shin Bet said. One person was responsible for clearing the way for the car that contained a driver and two gunmen. The fifth member of the cell, its commander, was not in the car.
A number of other people were arrested on suspicion of providing assistance to the cell, the Shin Bet said.
The video below shows the arrest of one of the suspects at a hospital in Nablus, Channel 2 television said Monday night. The TV report said the attack was likely curtailed when one of the five was accidentally shot by another cell member and the gunmen sped away in order to seek medical assistance for him. That may be why the four Henkin children — aged 9, 7, 4 and 4 months — were not harmed.
The Shin Bet named the cell leader as Ragheb Ahmad Muhammad Aliwi, a previously jailed Hamas fighter from Nablus, who recruited the other four terrorists, instructed them how to carry out attacks and provided them with their weapons.
The other 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 is linked to previous terror attacks; Karem Lufti Fatahi Razek, the gunman 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.
All four are Hamas activists from Nablus.
Razek was arrested in a hospital in Nablus by an undercover police unit. The other suspects were arrested at their homes and other locations.
The Abdel Qader al-Husseini Brigades, a group affiliated with Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, had claimed on Friday that it carried out the terror attack. In fact, said the Shin Bet, Hamas was to blame. It was not clear whether the killing was organized higher up the Hamas hierarchy.
Channel 2 said the suspects claimed to have carried out the killing in revenge for the firebombing of a Palestinian home in Duma two months ago, in which three members of the Dawabsha family were killed. That attack was allegedly the work of Jewish terrorists.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed Friday to step up efforts to bring to justice the terrorists who killed the couple.
Meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in New York on Friday, 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 thanked Kerry for condemning the murders of Eitam and Naama Henkin, and noted that he had yet to hear Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounce the deadly attack.
“Worse, I heard senior officials from his Fatah movement praise this action. They say this is the way to go. No, it’s not the way to go. The way to go for any conceivable arrangement is fight terrorism and make sure terrorism reaps no rewards,” he vowed.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report