The Shin Bet, IDF and police have arrested two Palestinians, both residents of the village of Awarta, in connection to the Fogel family massacre in Itamar in March.
The first suspect is Hakim Mazen Awad, 18, a high school student whose father was active in the Popular Front terror organization. Awad has a prison record. His uncle, who was killed in clashes with IDF forces in 2003, was involved in a June 2002 terror attack in Itamar, which left five dead.
The second suspect, Amjad Mahmad Awad, 19, also a student, is affiliated with the Popular Front.
The two suspects confessed to their involvement in the murders, and said that they sought to carry out a terror attack in order to kill Israelis. They expressed no regret over the murders.
The Shin Bet arrested the two subsequent to a strenuous investigation, which included the interrogation of multiple persons of interest in the case.
On April 5 and April 10, IDF forces arrested Amjad and Hakim. The investigation into the attack revealed that the two decided to carry out a terror attack and attempted to acquire weapons three days before the March 11 attack.
In order to obtain the weapons they turned to a Popular Front militant in their village, but he refused to acquiesce to their request. And yet, at midday on Friday March 11, they decided that they would go to Itamar that night, armed with knives and carry out the attack.
Masterminds of evil
At approximately 9:00 pm the two cut the settlement fence and entered its ground, masked. At first, they entered a neighboring house, found it empty, and stole an M-16 rifle, clips and a Kevlar vest. From there they moved onto the Fogel home.
Before entering the house the murderers noticed that there were children in the home. Undeterred, they still chose to proceed, killing two of the children immediately after breaking in. Parents Ehud and Ruth were murdered next. According to the investigation’s report, the two struggled with their attackers before succumbing to multiple shotgun wounds.
Before fleeing the scene, the two stole an additional gun from the Fogel home. When they had already left the house and saw a patrol car outside, they feared they would be captured. At that point, Amjad insisted on going back into the house and searching for additional weapons. Unfortunately, this was when the Fogel’s baby girl started crying. Fearing it would attract attention, the two murdered her, as well.
As for the two surviving children, the murderers said they hadn’t noticed them. Had they found the two, both said, they would not have hesitated to kill them, as well.
The heinous deed done, the two, who are not related, returned to their village on foot and appealed to Hakim’s uncle, Salah Awad, also a Popular Front militant, for assistance, giving him a detailed report of the attack they had carried out.
Salah Awad helped them conceal their weapons and bloodstained clothes, and later, he transferred the stolen weapons to a Ramallah resident, for hiding. The latter was arrested after the weapons were discovered in his possession.
Israeli security forces also arrested five of the two’s family members and friends in connection to the case.
Complex investigation, chilling reenactment
The Shin Bet noted that even though the murderers are affiliated with the Peoples Front, it appears that they acted of their own accord and were not following orders. The issue is still under investigation.
A senior Shin Bet official said that the massacre had the characteristics of a “lone-terrorist” attack and even though it was carried out by two people, it was difficult to receive any information in advance which could have prevented the attack.
A senior Shin Bet official said that the massacre had the characteristics of a ‘lone terrorist’ attack and even though it was carried out by two people, obtaining intelligence to thwart such attacks in extremely difficult.
Sources familiar with the investigation said the two offered a dispassionate account of the attack, and “a chilling reenactment.” Shin Bet officers described it as one of the most “shocking, cold, remorseless and detailed description,” they had ever come across.
Amjad noted that he went to Itamar to “die a martyr’s death”, which strengthened his willingness to carry out an act of terrorism. During their interrogation the two suspects made no distinction between the murder of the parents and the children, describing it simply as an act against five Jewish Israelis.
The village of Awarta, with 8,000 residents is known as a breeding ground for terror and has quite a few hostile elements. Nevertheless, following the massacre and the series of arrests carried out by the defense establishment, the residents renounced the massacre and even attempted to point the blame away from the village.
The Shin Bet said that despite the time that passed between the murder and the case’s resolution, it was a major achievement.
Following today’s discoveries, Ruth Fogel’s brother, Yochai Ben Yishai told Ynet: “We are very proud of the State and the security services. But on a personal level, there is no consolation, the pain remains sharp.”
Yishai added that “the capture of he murderers gives us a sense of satisfaction on a national level but we must get to a point where these people are deterred before they take action and not just apprehended after the murder.”