A Hamas terrorist cell from Nablus was behind the October 1 murder of Eitam and Naama Henkin as they drove near Itamar with their four children, the Shin Bet said on Monday.
After striking the Henkins’ vehicle near the settlement in Samaria, wounding both parents, the assailants approached the car and fired on the couple again, from very close range, as the children sat in the backseat, the investigation revealed.
Findings have also suggested the children’s lives may have been spared because one of the terrorists accidentally shot another, leading them to flee the scene more speedily.
Five suspected cell members were arrested in a joint security operation by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), IDF and Israel Police within 24 hours of the shooting, the agency added.
Footage from scene of West Bank shooting
The arrests were facilitated by security forces’ “joint intelligence and operational activity,” and the suspects have confessed to taking part in the murders, it said. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon praised the rapid captures, adding that the group had plotted more attacks to murder more Israelis.
“Hamas is trying all of the time to carry out terrorist attacks in various forms,” Ya’alon said.
“The main orchestration, funding and training comes, generally, from [Hamas’s] Gaza headquarters, which oversees West Bank attacks, and through Salah Arouri, who runs the organization’s terrorist activities from his base in Istanbul. It would be appropriate for the free world not to sweep this reality under the rug.
“The fight against terrorism requires the defense establishment to be determined, uncompromising, patient, wise and to exercise good judgment,” Ya’alon also said.
“This is how we act. We have no intention of allowing terrorist elements to disrupt our lives,” he said.
“We are dealing with bloodthirsty terrorist organizations that are relentless, and the fight against them, like the reality itself on the ground, is complex and requires that we be patient.”
The investigation found that the suspected cell numbered five, and belonged to Hamas in Nablus. One of them ensured the road was open.
Three drove inside a car – a driver and two gunmen. The commander was not inside the vehicle.
Additional suspects are in custody on suspicion of assisting the cell, the Shin Bet said.
It named the leader of the gunmen as Ahmed Aliwi, 37, a member of Hamas’s military wing in Nablus, who allegedly recruited the other terrorists, directed them to carry out attacks and supplied them with weapons.
It named four other Hamas members in Nablus, including Yahya Haj Hamed, 24, the alleged gunman, Samir Kusa, 33, the driver, and two others.
(Photo: Hamas cell commander Ahmed Aliwi)
Karem Razak, 23, who was allegedly armed with a handgun during the attack, fired gunshots in the incident, and was accidentally wounded by shots fired by Hamed, investigators found.
The suspects said that on the evening of October 1, two of them drove on the road near Itamar and selected a spot from which they would open fire on an Israeli vehicle.
Other suspects gathered at the site, with one operative moving ahead of them to ensure the road was clear of security forces.
“After receiving confirmation that the road was ‘clean,’ the shooting cell set off in their car, identified a vehicle belonging to the Henkin family and opened fire. After the [victims’] car stopped, two members of the cell got out of their car, and fired again, from very short range, on those in the vehicle,” the Shin Bet said.
At this stage, Razak was accidentally shot, dropping his handgun at the scene. It was recovered by security forces. The cell fled to Nablus, 5 km. away.
The suspects admitted to taking part in two other shooting attacks including the August 30 shooting and wounding of Shavei Shomron settlement resident Ronen Adri near the Jit junction, next to Kedumim.
On Saturday, the Shin Bet revealed that a number of suspects had been arrested in late Friday night raids in Nablus and that “there has been a significant development in the investigation.”
The arrests were carried out in conjunction with the IDF, Israel Police, Duvdevan special operations unit and the Border Police’s Counter-Terrorism Unit. The forces moved into the Palestinian city, located some 5 km. northwest of the scene of the murders, and arrested several suspects.
The IDF has deployed four additional battalions to the West Bank to seek out suspected terrorists and respond to the deteriorating security situation.