JERUSALEM – An estimated 20,000 people turned out at a Jerusalem cemetery on Sunday, March 13 for the funeral of five members of one Israeli family who were slaughtered by terrorists who broke into their home in Itamar, a West Bank settlement near the Palestinian city of Nablus.
According to police, Udi Fogel, 38, Ruth Fogel, 37, and their children, Yoav, 11, Elad, 4 and Hadas, 3 months, were stabbed to death in their beds sometime late Friday night. The infant, Hadas, was decapitated.
Two of the family’s other children were asleep in another room and escaped unharmed. The massacre was discovered by a 12-year old daughter who returned home around midnight from a youth group event.
Volunteers for the Israeli search and rescue team, ZAKA, were overwhelmed by the horrific nature of the crime.
“We saw toys lying next to pools of blood, Shabbat clothes covered in blood and everywhere the smell of death mixing with the aroma of the Shabbat meal,” a volunteer told Ha’aretz.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said the slaughter “indicates a loss of humanity.”
The massacre sparked outrage all across Israel and created a swell of sympathy for West Bank residents, with demonstrators in Tel Aviv and elsewhere carrying signs reading “We are all settlers” and “peace isn’t signed with blood.”
In response to the attack, the Israeli Cabinet immediately approved the construction of 500 housing units in the West Bank settlements of Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel and Kiryat Sefer. According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, the settlements are among those that will remain part of Israel under a peace agreement.
The White House was quick to condemn the attack, but condemnation from Palestinian leadership was slow and somewhat muted. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas bristled at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinian leaders “stop the incitement that is conducted on a daily basis in their schools, mosques and the media under their control. The time has come to stop this double-talk in which the Palestinian Authority outwardly talks peace and allows – and sometimes leads – incitement at home.” Abbas suggested an Israeli-Palestinian-American committee be set up to investigate Netanyahu’s allegations.
On its official website, Hamas TV congratulated the Palestinian people, calling the day of the attack a “morning of glory.” The terrorist group handed out candies to Gaza residents who took to the streets in celebration.
Meanwhile, the incident went largely unreported – or underreported in the American press. The New York Times buried the story inside its pages with the headline “”Suspecting Palestinians, Israeli Military Hunts for Killers of 5 West Bank Settlers;” and CNN sparked a call for an apology from Israel’s government press office when it first described the Israeli military as searching for an “intruder” instead of a terrorist or terrorists, and then in a headline on its website placed quotation marks around the words “terrorist attack.”
As the Ledger went to press, two cousins were in custody and were suspected of the slayings. According to reports, Ahmed Awad is an officer in Abbas’ Preventative Security Services, and Iyad Awad is an officer in Abbas’ General Intelligence Services in Ramallah. Both the Preventative and General Intelligence Services are armed, trained and funded by the U.S. It was not immediately clear if the two were arrested for planning the attack or for personally carrying it out.