JERUSALEM ““ Israeli military and police forces continue to scour the West Bank for a suspected Palestinian terrorist who stabbed a Jewish couple and three of their children to death in their West Bank home.
The forces were also deployed throughout the West bank Sunday to prevent revenge attacks by Israeli settlers.
“Israel will not stand by idly after such a despicable murder and will act vigorously to safeguard the lives of the citizens of Israel and punish the murderers,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement released after the Sabbath eve attack in Itamar in the northern West Bank. “I expect the international community to sharply and unequivocally condemn this murder, the murder of children. I have noticed that several countries that always hasten to the U.N. Security Council in order to condemn Israel, the state of the Jews, for planning a house in some locality, or for laying some tiles somewhere have been dilatory in sharply condemning the murder of Jewish infants. I expect them to issue such condemnations immediately, without balances, without understandings, without justifications.”
Netanyahu also called on the Palestinian leadership, who he said condemned the attacks with “weak and mumbled statements,” to “stop the incitement that is conducted on a daily basis in their schools, mosques and the media under their control. The time has come to stop this double-talk in which the Palestinian Authority outwardly talks peace, and allows – and sometimes leads – incitement at home.”
The dead family members were identified as Udi Fogel, 36, Ruth Fogel, 35, and their children Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and Hadas, three months old. Two sons, Roi, 8, and Yishai, 2, were sleeping in a side bedroom and were spared. A daughter, Tamar, 12, returned home at midnight from a youth group program to discover the massacre. The family had been evacuated from Gush Katif and lived in Ariel before building a home in Itamar.
The funeral took place Sunday afternoon.
The al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the ruling West Bank Palestinian Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the killing in a statement sent to the media. The claim has been disputed by some Palestinian leaders.
Israeli army forces swept the West Bank in the wake of the attack and Netanyahu demanded assistance from the Palestinian Authority in apprehending the attacker. Reports said P.A. forces had arrested a number of Hamas activists.
P.A. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad “firmly” condemned the attack, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The White House called it an act of terrorism.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the murder of five Israelis in a terrorist attack in the northern West Bank, and we offer our condolences to their loved ones and to the Israeli people.” a statement said. “There is no possible justification for the killing of parents and children in their home.”
The Mideast Quartet ““ made up the United Nations, European Union, Russia, and the United States – also condemned the attack, offering their condolences to the victims’ family and to the Israeli people. “Attacks on any civilians are completely unacceptable in any circumstance,” the Quartet’s statement said. “The Quartet calls on those responsible to be brought to justice and welcomes the strong condemnation of this attack by President Abbas and the Palestinian leadership.”
The Quartet also called to “expedite efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian and comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.”
On Saturday night, Israeli activists blocked traffic junctions in the West Bank to protest the attack. Palestinians reported that settlers entered the village of Hawara near Itamar and threw stones at residents.
In Gaza, Hamas officials reportedly handed out candy to residents in celebration of the attack.
JTA Wire Service