Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday blamed Palestinian incitement for a deadly shooting attack that killed an Israeli couple near Nablus on Thursday night.
Their children — aged 4 months, 4, 7 and 9 — who were in the backseat of the vehicle were unharmed.
“This is a difficult day for the State of Israel. We witnessed an especially cruel and disgusting murder during which a couple was killed. Parents were killed and their children were left orphans. Our heart goes out to the children,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters in his Manhattan hotel, in what was his first reaction to the attack.
“The murderers knew they were killing a father and a mother because the children were there,” he said.
Hinting at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s UN speech Wednesday, Netanyahu said the terror attack was the “result of Palestinian incitement.”
“It has been proven again that wild Palestinian incitement leads to acts of terrorism and murder such as we have seen this evening,” said Netanyahu, who had just finished speaking at the UN General Assembly when news of the terror attack broke.
The prime minister added that he spoke Thursday evening with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot and the head of the Shin Bet security service, Yoram Cohen, “not only to discuss locating the murderers but also to increase security for all Israeli citizens.”
The murdered couple, Eitam and Naama Henkin, are survived by four children.
The attack took place shortly before 9 p.m. between the settlements of Itamar and Elon Moreh, near the Palestinian village of Beit Furik.
Eitam Henkin is the son of Rabbi Yehuda and Chana Henkin, who moved to Israel from the United States in the 1970s. His mother, Chana, runs the Nishmat institute, a Jewish learning institution that was one of the first to teach women Talmud and Jewish law. Rabbi Henkin, a noted Torah scholar and author of several volumes of responsa, also serves as the school’s Jewish law authority.
The couple will be laid to rest Friday morning at 11 a.m at Har Hamenuhot in Jerusalem, also known as the Givat Shaul cemetery.
The Israel Defense Forces launched a manhunt for the killers, ordering the deployment of four infantry battalions to aid in the search. The military also began closing off Beit Furik, near the site of the attack, where it is believed the perpetrators are from.
Ya’alon vowed to “put our hands” on the perpetrators of the deadly attack.
“This evening’s lethal attack is the logical continuation of the incitement against the State of Israel and its citizens,” he said in a statement shortly after the attack.
“The war on terror demands of us determination, an iron fist and patience. We are fighting a bloodthirsty enemy, and unfortunately we are suffering losses along the way. As we speak, the IDF and Shin Bet security service are searching for the murderers. We will track them down, and we will not rest until we put our hands on the murderers and those who sent them,” Ya’alon vowed.
Opposition chief Isaac Herzog called the killing “reprehensible and very painful. I share in the family’s grief and in the community’s mourning,” he said on Twitter.
In a statement, President Reuven Rivlin focused on the couple’s children.
“Tonight, bloodthirsty murderers claimed the lives of a mother and a father, leaving their young children orphaned. The heart breaks at the magnitude of such cruelty and hatred. We will continue in our brave and unwavering fight against this cruel and heinous terrorism — of this our enemies can be sure. This is our duty, and the only way we can ensure the right of the orphans who lost their parents tonight, along with the right of all our children and grandchildren, to live with security and in peace, everywhere in the Land of Israel,” he said.
“We pray for the speedy recovery of the injured children — our hearts and thoughts are with them.”
The Yesha Council, a West Bank settlement advocacy group, placed the blame for the attack squarely on the Palestinian Authority. “The ongoing incitement of the Palestinian Authority and the bevy of lies and incitement from [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] yesterday at the UN are the direct cause of terror attacks,” the group said in a statement, referring to a fiery speech by Abbas on Wednesday night.
“The Israeli government must offer an unequivocal security response, including the arrest of all inciters, widespread [settlement] construction and the establishment of new communities in every place in which they try to harm us,” the group said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely of the ruling Likud party, currently in New York for the UN General Assembly, also said the attack was a product of Palestinian Authority “incitement,” as did Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the pro-settler Jewish Home party.
“[Abbas’s] marching orders were answered this evening in Israel, and it is red with blood,” Bennett said in a statement. “A nation whose leaders incite murder will never have a state, and that has to be said clearly. The time for talking is over. Now is the time for action.”
MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) echoed the accusation, saying the “horrible double murder of this evening is the fruit of incitement from the Palestinian Authority and the man who stands at its head.”
Yogev, who knew the couple personally, vowed that Israel would “deal with the terror with an iron fist.”
In a statement, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov condemned the shooting.
“There is nothing heroic about the killing of civilians. The perpetrators of this violent act must be brought to justice,” he said. “In order to avoid escalation all must refrain from inflammatory statements and retaliatory action that can only further exacerbate an already tense environment.
“This tragic incident, once again, highlights the need for significant steps that help stabilize the situation, reverse the current negative trends and restore hope that a just and lasting negotiated two-state solution is possible.”
Minor clashes between Israelis and Palestinians followed the terror attack. An Israeli woman was injured in a rock-throwing incident near the Hawara checkpoint close to Nablus. She was taken to Beilison Hospital in Petah Tikva for treatment. A Palestinian woman and her three children were said to be lightly injured in a rock-throwing attack by settlers in the Palestinian village of Burin, west of Beit Furik.