A Hamas terrorist cell from Nablus was behind the October 1 murder of Eitam and Naama Henkin as they drove in their car near Itamar with their four children, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) domestic intelligence agency announced on Monday.
After striking the Henkins’ vehicle, injuring both parents, members of the shooting cell approached it and fired on the couple again, from very close range, as the terrified four children sat in the backseat, the investigation revealed.
It appears as if the accidental shooting of one terrorist by his fellow cell member during the attack led them to flee the scene quickly, thereby saving the lives of the children in the back seat.
Five members of the cell were arrested in a joint security operation by the Shin Bet, IDF, and Israel Police within 24 hours of the deadly shooting, the agency added.
The arrest was made possible by “joint intelligence and operational activity” by security forces, and the terror cell members have confessed to taking part in the murder, it stated.
The investigation found that the cell “belonged to Hamas in Nablus, and was made up of five operates, each of which had a set role. One operative ensured the road was open. Three operatives drove in a car – a driver and two shooters. The cell commander was not in the vehicle.
Additional suspects are in custody on suspicion of assisting the cell,” the Shin Bet said.
It named the cell commander as Ahmed Aliwi, 36, a member of Hamas’s military wing in Nablus, who allegedly recruited the other terrorists, directed them towards carrying out attacks, and supplied them with weapons.
It named four other Hamas members in Nablus, including Yahya Haj Hamed, 24, who allegedly was the gunman in this and in previous attacks, and Samir Kusa, 32, who acted as a driver in this attack, and two others.
Karem Razak, 23, who was allegedly armed with a handgun during the attack, fired shots during the murder of the Henkin couple, and was also accidentally injured by shots fired by Hamed, investigators found.
Members of the group said on the evening of October 1, two cell members drove on the road near the settlement of Itamar, and selected a spot from which they would open fire on an Israeli vehicle.
The remaining members of the cell gathered at the spot, with one operative moving ahead of them to ensure that 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 the nearby city of Nablus, five kilometers away.
The cell members confessed to taking part in two other shooting attacks: One occurred near Jit Junction in Samaria on August 30, in which the vehicle of Ronen Adri, a resident of Shavei Shomron, in Samaria, was struck by bullets, and an additional attack in the same area.
The interrogation of the cell members continues.
On Saturday, the Shin Bet revealed that a number of suspects were arrested on late Friday night raids in Nablus, on suspicion of being linked to the previous day’s deadly shooting attack.
The arrests were carried out by the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency together 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 five kilometers northwest of the scene of the murders, and made several arrests of security suspects.
“In the past 24 hours, there has been a significant development in the investigation,” the Shin Bet announced on Saturday evening.
The IDF has deployed four additional battalions to the West Bank to take part in the search for the terrorist cell and to respond to the deteriorating security situation.