Ramallah/Nablus, March 12 (DPA) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Saturday that Israel would protect its citizens in the West Bank after five members of the same family were murdered overnight.
“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,” Netanhayu said.
An armed Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place in the settlement of Itamar, near the West Bank city of Nablus, around 1.15 a.m. local time (2315 GMT).
Two parents and three of their children, aged 11, 3 and 3 months were stabbed to death while three other children were able to flee to a neighbour’s home.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the killing in a statement sent to reporters.
They said the attack was an “heroic operation” that was “part of the natural response to the massacres of the fascist (Israeli) occupation against our people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” said the leaflet.
“We tell the criminals of the occupation that their crimes won’t pass without punishment,” the movement concluded.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad also condemned the attack.
“There ought to be no doubt as to where we stand on violence,” said Fayyad in a statement to reporters. “We reject it, and we always condemned it,” he said.
According to an initial investigation, the attackers were able to enter the settlement after the security system failed to alert the defence unit guarding the settlement.
“The government must support the settlements in Judea and Samaria, which pay the heaviest price,” Danny Dayan, representative of the Israeli settlers association, the Yesha Council, in the West Bank said.
Meanwhile, a curfew the Israeli army had imposed on Awarta, the closest Palestinian town to the settlement, remained in force Saturday as soldiers conducted house-to-house searches looking for the assailant.
“The IDF has begun an operation to look for the terrorists,” Israeli army captain Arye Shalicar said.
The army arrested dozens of village residents, mainly brothers and relatives of two Palestinians who were killed by the Israeli army in March last year.
Movement in and out of the city of Nablus was eased in the afternoon after a total closure in the morning which forced schools and hospitals to cancel exams and appointments for patients.
The attack came after several days of clashes between settlers and the Israeli Army as it removed settlers from illegal structures and small outposts they had built in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Some settlers retaliated by attacking Palestinians and their property. Last week settlers uprooted 500 newly planted olive trees, belonging to a Palestinian village near the city of Hebron.
Netanyahu this week warned the settlers against using violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.