Tensions High After Palestinian Gunmen Kill Jewish Couple Living in West Bank Settlements

A mourner at the graves of an Israeli couple, Eitam and Naama Henkin, at a cemetery in Jerusalem. The Henkins were killed in the occupied West Bank, apparently by Palestinian gunmen. (PHOTO CREDIT: Atef Safadi/European Pressphoto Agency)
A mourner at the graves of an Israeli couple, Eitam and Naama Henkin, at a cemetery in Jerusalem. The Henkins were killed in the occupied West Bank, apparently by Palestinian gunmen. (PHOTO CREDIT: Atef Safadi/European Pressphoto Agency)

In a letter to the Israeli president just three months ago, Naama Henkin said she had contributed money to a fund for orphaned children, and asked him to do more to protect Jewish families like hers who live in West Bank settlements.

The president, Reuven Rivlin, read the letter at the funeral for Ms. Henkin and her husband, Eitam, on Friday morning. The Henkins were shot dead, apparently by Palestinian gunmen, in the occupied West Bank the night before, and their four children are now among the orphans Ms. Henkin had tried to help.

Hours earlier, a car was burned in the village of Bitilu by vandals who left behind graffiti vowing revenge for the couple’s killing.

The Israeli military deployed four infantry battalions in the West Bank to search for the suspects and to ensure that the roads were kept safe from more attacks, said Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the military.

During a visit on Friday to the site of the shooting, near the Jewish settlement of Itamar and the Palestinian village of Beit Furik, Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, described the attack as part of “a period of an eruption.”

Clashes between Muslims and Jews flared in recent weeks at the contested Jerusalem holy site known as the Temple Mount to Jews and as Al Aqsa, or the Noble Sanctuary, to Muslims. The violence simmered over the summer as the political situation between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority remained stagnant.

This week, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders talked aggressively — and largely past each other — in speeches to the United Nations General Assembly. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday accused President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority of “rejectionism” because of his refusal to resume direct negotiations with Israel with no preconditions. The day before, Mr. Abbas said he would no longer be bound by agreements with Israel if it continued to violate them.

On Friday, after the attack on the Henkins, a senior Palestinian activist said in a telephone interview that Palestinians should “use all methods of resistance” against Jewish settlers. The activist, Sultan al-Einein, a member of the central council of Fatah, the political party led by Mr. Abbas, added, “We should kill their women as they have killed ours.”

His statement came after a branch of a Fatah militant group, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack on its website.

Speaking on Friday in New York, where he met with Secretary of State John Kerry, Mr. Netanyahu complained that Palestinian leaders had failed to condemn the West Bank attack.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Diaa Hadid