A mother, father and three of their children were stabbed to death late Friday night by at least one suspected terrorist who infiltrated the Itamar settlement southeast of Nablus.

The killings occurred shortly after 10 p.m., when one or two attackers jumped the fence that surrounds Itamar and broke into the home of Ruth and Udi Fogel, aged 35 and 36, respectively. The attackers went room to room, stabbing the parents, a three-month-old girl, Hadas, and two boys, Elad, three, and Yoav, 11.

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Two other children – aged two and eight – were in a side room but were not attacked.

The family’s oldest child, 12- year-old Tamar, was out of the house at the time.

The IDF immediately launched searches in nearby Arab villages as Palestinians reported that a faction of Fatah’s al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade had claimed responsibility.

Several dozen suspects were arrested in Awarta, Sanur and Zabada as soldiers conducted searches with the aid of unmanned aerial vehicles that provided surveillance from above.

As the attackers used knives rather than rifles or pistols, and because of other characteristics of the killings, the IDF believes it was not carried out by an organized terrorist infrastructure but more likely was the work of one or two people who could, though, be affiliated with one of the larger Palestinian terrorist groups.

The army urged the settler community to demonstrate restraint in the coming days.

The IDF and the Israel Police deployed large forces in the area to prevent clashes between settlers and Palestinians.

The suspected terrorists infiltrated the settlement close to 9:30 p.m. but did not carry out the attack until around 10:15.

“The children were literally slaughtered,” an IDF officer said, describing the scene, including the children’s toys spilled out on the floor and covered in blood. “This is one of the most brutal attacks we have ever seen.”

The IDF was in contact with Palestinian Authority security forces, but senior officers said the army would not rely on the PA to catch the perpetrators.

“This attack is one of the worst attacks we have known in recent years and we will hunt down the terrorists until they are caught,” the officer said, noting that there had not been an infiltration into Itamar in almost eight years.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak convened top military and security chiefs on Saturday and urged them to take all necessary action to apprehend the killers.

“This is a horrible attack that makes my blood boil, but I have no doubt that the perpetrators will be captured,” Barak said during a meeting with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin. “We need to do everything so security and quiet can return to the area.”


OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi expressed condolences following the attack.

“An entire family was killed by despicable and cowardly murderers who murdered children and parents for no reason,” he said.

Mizrahi hinted that the IDF had a lead on the identity of the terrorists: “We are in the midst of pursuing the terrorists and I believe we will catch them very soon,” he said.

The details of the investigation were covered by a gag order.

The Fogel family lived in Gush Katif. After the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip, it moved to Ariel and then to Itamar.

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