JERUSALEM (JTA) — They came armed with knives and wire cutters looking for a Jewish target.
It was a Friday night, the Sabbath eve of March 11, and Palestinian teenagers Amjad Awad, 19, and Hakim Awad, 18, both from the Palestinian village of Awarta, hurried through the dark before climbing over the fence of the nearby Jewish settlement of Itamar, in the West Bank.
The first house they entered was empty of people, but they found an M-16, magazines and a flak jacket. They took the material with them.
Next they entered the Fogels’ home.
The attack that took place there would shock Israel and reverberate around the world.
First they murdered 11-year-old Yoav and his 4-year-old brother, Elad. They continued on to the bedroom where the children’s parents, Ruth and Udi, were sleeping with 3-month-old Hadas. The Fogels struggled, but to no avail. It wasn’t until the killers heard Hadas cry that they realized a baby was in the room; they murdered her, too.
Before leaving the house, the two men stole another M-16.
Two other Fogel children — sons Roi, 8, and Yishai, 2 — were sleeping in a side bedroom and were spared. A daughter, Tamar, 12, returned home at about midnight from a youth group activity to discover the grisly scene.
Meanwhile, the two killers returned to Awarta on foot and went to the home of Hakim’s uncle, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine member Salah E-Sin Awad, and told him of their attack. The uncle helped them hide the stolen weapons and knives, and burn their bloody clothes.
These were the allegations the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office made Sunday, just before Passover, releasing details about the Fogels’ murders after the two Palestinian teens were arrested for the attack. Police said the teens confessed to the killings.
The arrests close a circle but bring no consolation, relatives of the Fogels told Israeli media.
“We are very proud of the state and the security services,” Ruth Fogel’s brother, Yochai Ben Yishai, told the Israeli news outlet Ynet. “But on a personal level, there is no consolation. The pain remains sharp.”
The Israeli military announced Sunday that Israeli security services — including the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service and police — were involved in the teens’ arrest.
“For the family this is not a complete answer, but without it they could not be given even a partial answer,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, adding that “We will reach murderers anywhere.”
Amjad, who worked as a laborer in Israel, and Hakim, a high school student, were arrested several days apart earlier this month. Amjad, who is not related to Hakim, reportedly said that he went to Itamar to “die a martyr’s death.”
The suspects have been identified as members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, like their uncle and several members of their families, some of whom were arrested as accomplices. But Israeli authorities said it appears the two murderers did not act on behalf of the terrorist organization.
Dozens of residents of Awarta had been detained by Israeli security services in recent weeks in an effort to identify the Fogels’ murderers.
Awarta village council chief Kais Awad, speaking to Ynet, demanded an international inquiry into the arrests, saying he has “major doubts over the Israeli findings” and that the murder confessions were obtained under duress.
“They’re children; it isn’t possible that they committed this awful act,” he said.
Several Israeli lawmakers from the Likud and National Union parties reportedly called for the death penalty, which has never been used in Israel in terrorism cases. Israel’s only judicial execution was of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann.