Last March 12, Israelis learned that, the night before, terrorists had broken into a home in the West Bank community of Itamar and murdered five members of the Fogel family—the parents, 11- and 4-year-old boys, and a 3-month-old girl. Sunday, the eve of Passover, brought the relieving news that the two terrorists had been nabbed by combined intelligence, army, and police forces. So had six accomplices who helped them hide the murder weapons and suppress evidence.
The two perpetrators are Hakim Mazen Awad, 18, a high school student, and Amjad Mahmad Awad, 19, also a student (the two are not directly related, though from the same clan). As expected, they’re from Awarta, a Palestinian village of 8,000 that is considered a “breeding ground for terror” and neighbors Itamar (pop. 1,000). Acting without leads, in the course of the investigation the Israeli forces detained hundreds of Awarta residents before fingering the culprits and their helpers.
Although the two murderers have links to the Popular Front—a terror organization considered “secular” and not Islamist—it’s believed at this point that they did not act under its auspices. Terror, however, runs in the family for both of them. Among the suspected accomplices are Hakim’s father and one of his uncles, both from Awarta and the latter a Popular Front member (and the former as well, according to one report). As for Amjad, an uncle of his was involved in a 2002 terror attack on Itamar that killed five; the next year he was killed in a clash with the Israeli army.
The story that’s now been pieced together is this: on Friday night, March 11, the two perpetrators snuck into Itamar armed with knives, then broke into an empty house beside the Fogel house and stole an M-16 rifle there. Next, through the window of the Fogel house, they saw 11-year-old Yoav and 4-year-old Elad asleep. They broke in immediately and stabbed them to death.
They then went to the bedroom of the parents, Ehud and Ruth, and when they fought back, shot them dead. The shots weren’t heard because of weather conditions.
Hakim and Amjad then exited the house, saw a patrol car, hurried back in, and heard 3-month-old Hadas crying. They slit her throat to keep her quiet, then managed to steal back to Awarta.
Officers of Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, said the two gave a “chilling reenactment” that was one of the most “shocking, cold, remorseless and detailed” they had ever witnessed. Amjad said his motivation was to “die a martyr’s death.” Two other Fogel boys, eight-year-old Roi and two-year-old Yishai, were also sleeping in the house but were spared because the intruders didn’t notice them. The latter said, however, that they “would not have hesitated to kill them, as well.”
Lt.-Col. Nimrod Aloni, commander of the brigade responsible for the area, warned that West Bank terror organizations have “high motivation” and that “we have a long, hard war ahead of us.” A security source said the two killers “received much support from family members and friends in their environment.”
Commenting on these revelations, the _Jerusalem Post_’s Herb Keinon notes that “over the past couple of weeks, everyone from the World Bank to the International Monetary Fund and UN Mideast envoy Robert Serry has come out with reports declaring that Palestinian institutions are about ready for statehood,” and that last week in Brussels an international donors conference for the Palestinian Authority said, “The PA is above the threshold for a functioning state in key sectors.”
These assessments deal with areas like finance, administration, law, and infrastructure, where current PA prime minister Salam Fayyad is credited with bringing about improvements over the last few years, while ignoring such matters as the massive incitement and hate-education that foster atrocities like the Itamar massacre and a broader societal ethos where one-third of the population said they approve of it.
Yet on Tuesday, while Israelis were celebrating Passover and just two days after the news about the Itamar suspects, Israeli media prominently reported on a Los Angeles Times article claiming that
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under mounting pressure to unveil a new plan for solving the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict or risk having the U.S. and international community move ahead with a strategy of their own…. American and European diplomats are continuing to prod Netanyahu to lay out his vision for restarting peace talks and ending the occupation of the West Bank. If he does not, diplomats warned, the so-called Mideast quartet—the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations—may attempt to jump-start the process by formally endorsing, for the first time, the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Netanyahu’s government has vehemently opposed such a move.
On the one hand, ongoing Palestinian terror that issues from a society festering with hatred. On the other, Western demands—even in the face of raging Middle East instability—for an instant Palestinian state on all of the territory that is supposed to be in dispute. The disconnect could not be more jarring. Just before Passover, Netanyahu told Agence France-Presse that
The core of the conflict has always been the persistent refusal of the Palestinian leadership to recognize the Jewish state in any borders…. Why don’t the Palestinians do something so simple as recognizing the Jewish state? After all, we are prepared to recognize a Palestinian state. Why can’t they reciprocate if they really want peace?
But it’s more than not recognizing the Jewish state. It’s not recognizing the right of the Jews in it to live.