An Israeli mother and father were killed in a shooting attack on their vehicle Thursday night in the northern West Bank.
The couple, identified late Thursday as Eitam and Naama Henkin of the settlement of Neria north of Ramallah, leaves behind four children — aged 4 months, 4, 7 and 9 — who were in the vehicle at the time of the attack, but were not hit by the gunfire.
The terror attack took place shortly before 9 p.m. between the settlements of Itamar and Elon Moreh, near the Palestinian village of Beit Furik.
The security services were hunting for the perpetrators.
The Israeli family came under fire when they slowed down before making a turn. At that moment, a Palestinian vehicle accelerated toward the family. Two attackers opened fire on the family with a handgun and a rifle.
Both parents were struck multiple times in their upper bodies, paramedics said. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
“It was a very difficult scene,” said MDA paramedic Boaz Malka, one of the first to arrive. “We saw a vehicle in the middle of the road, and a man in his 30s lying next to it with wounds in his upper torso. Inside the car sat a woman in her 30s, also with severe wounds to her upper torso. They were without any signs of life, and unfortunately we were forced to pronounce them dead at the scene.”
According to investigators, Naama Henkin was killed immediately. Eitam, despite suffering from multiple bullet wounds, stepped out of the vehicle and opened one of the car’s back doors, telling his children to flee the scene. He then collapsed on the road and died.
Investigators say the attackers stopped their vehicle, and one of them stepped out and walked over to the Israeli car and verified that both parents were dead. The man returned to the vehicle, which sped away toward a nearby Palestinian village.
BREAKING PHOTO: Emergency units on scene after Israeli couple died after being shot by Arab terrorist near Itamar. pic.twitter.com/cq1YBspxeF
— Israel News Feed (@IsraelHatzolah) October 1, 2015
The road was closed to traffic as the hunt for the killers continued into the night. The IDF and Shin Bet launched a massive manhunt for the perpetrators, including sweeps of the area, roadblocks and other methods. The area southeast of Nablus was declared a closed military zone, and eyewitnesses reported seeing UAVs and patrols flooding the area.
IDF forces were said to be operating in force in the nearby Palestinian village of Awarta.
Late Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot ordered the deployment of four infantry battalions to the area to aid in the manhunt.
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) October 1, 2015
The Hamas terror group praised the “heroic attack” and called for “more high-quality attacks.”
“The Zionists will pay the price for Netanyahu’s criminal policy in every place,” the group’s armed wing said in a statement — but stopped short of taking responsibility for the attack.
No Palestinian faction immediately claimed responsibility.
Yossi Dagan, head of the Shomron Regional Council, called the attack “one of the hardest and most shocking events I’ve ever experienced. This road was opened irresponsibly to Palestinian drivers a few months ago and we said this attack would happen,” he charged in a Channel 2 interview. “There isn’t a proper response. Terror isn’t being dealt with as it should be,” he said.
Regional council psychologists were working with the children, Dagan said. Asked what the children were telling authorities about the attack they witnessed from up close, he said, “I can’t say much for security reasons, but the children described in great detail what happened, as children do.”
The IDF raised the alert level throughout the West Bank out of fear that the attack could spark further violence.
Sarit Michaeli, a spokesperson for the B’Tselem human rights watchdog, said there were reports that settlers from the Yitzhar settlement were carrying out a revenge attack against Palestinians in nearby villages. At the Yitzhar junction, dozens of Jewish rioters, some of them with covered faces, were clashing with IDF troops and police.
An Arab car was reportedly damaged by rocks thrown by Jewish rioters near Yitzhar.
הזעם בעקבות הפיגוע הרצחני: רכב ערבי שנרגם באבנים סמוך ליצהר.
Similar reports were coming in from the Palestinian village of Burin near Nablus, where Jewish rioters were said to be lobbing stones at Palestinian homes on the village’s southern outskirts.
Jews and Palestinians were reportedly throwing stones at each other near the Hawara Junction.
MDA confirmed that one of its ambulances responded to a call near Yitzhar, saying it evacuated to hospital a 28-year-old Palestinian woman lightly injured in the eye.
The West Bank and Jerusalem have seen a spate of violence in recent months, including several drive-by shootings by Palestinians against Israelis. An Israeli car came under fire near the Tapuach Junction in the West Bank last last month, though no one was hurt in the incident. An Israeli man was lightly hurt a few days earlier from gunfire near the settlement of Kedumim. In late June, Malachi Rosenfeld, 25, was killed and three others were wounded in a drive-by shooting near the settlement of Shilo.