Jewish World Review April 18, 2011 / 14 Nissan, 5771
The faces of evil
By Edmund Sanders
Palestinian teens held in brutal slayings of Israeli family
ERUSALEM (MCT) Israeli security officials said Sunday they had arrested two Palestinian teenagers as suspects in the grisly slayings last month of five members of a Jewish family, including three children, as they slept in their West Bank home.
The March 11 nighttime attack was one of the most brutal in years. Security officials accused the teens, Hakim Awad, 17, and Amjad Awad, 18, who are cousins, of using wire-cutters to break through an electric fence surrounding the heavily protected settlement, and then stealing a rifle from an empty home.
Shortly thereafter, they broke into the home of Udi and Ruth Fogel, first killing two children, Yoav, 10, and Elad, 4, and then stabbing and shooting their parents, Israeli officials said. After fleeing the scene because they feared the gunshots would attract neighbors, the pair allegedly returned to the house, where they stole another rifle and stabbed the family's 3-month old baby, Hadas, who had begun to cry, according to Israeli officials. Two other small children in the house escaped harm, apparently because they were unnoticed. A sixth child, who had been away at a youth outing, returned home around midnight to find the house doors locked and alerted a neighbor.
Military officials said the two Palestinian youths confessed to the killings.
"The murderers are in our hands," said Col. Nimrod Aloni, commander of the brigade responsible for Itamar. He said the killings proved that "the motivation to carry out cruel terror attacks still exists." Israeli officials said the suspects had "nationalistic" motives and had stated during interrogation that their goal was to kill Jewish settlers living in the West Bank.
Local Palestinian officials said they suspected the confessions were coerced and complained that the two students had not had access to attorneys or family members.
Military officials said the teens had not yet been formally charged. If charged, they would both be tried as adults in military court in the West Bank, where the cut-off age for minors is 16, military officials said.
Six other suspects all part of the same family were also arrested for allegedly helping the teens dispose of the weapons after the slayings, Israeli officials said.
Israel said the teens appeared to have acted alone in committing the killings and without support from any organization, though they said some of the teens' relatives were members of the Palestinian militant group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Immediately after the slayings, Israeli security forces focused their investigation on Awarta, whose residents have had longstanding tensions with Itamar's [residents], leading in the past to deadly clashes and previous attacks. In 2002, four Itamar settlers were killed in an attack partly carried out by one of the teenager's uncles, who was later killed by Israeli soldiers, military officials said.
Several hundred Awarta residents were arrested over the past month and a military curfew was periodically imposed, residents said.
Awarta Mayor Qais Awad, who is from the same extended family, questioned the legitimacy of the Israeli investigation and complained that Israel had refused to allow Palestinian participation.
"I have very serious doubts about the Israeli claims," he said. "We said we wanted to help because we also want to know the truth and want to see the one responsible for the killing punished. They refused, and they carried out their own secret investigation. In the end, they came up with this story about the two boys. These two are just boys, and they must have come under tremendous pressure and torture during interrogation that forced them to confess to something they have not done."
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