Itamar murder suspects and crime scene
Amjad Awad and Hakim Awad, with the crime scene in the background.
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Emil Salman
The victims of the Itamar settlement attack, 10-year-old Yoav Fogel, Udi Fogel, 37, four-year-old Elad Fogel, three-month old Hadas Fogel and Ruth Fogel, 36. Photo by Emil Salman

Israeli security forces have arrested two teenage residents of the West Bank Arab village of Awarta for allegedly carrying out last month's murder of five family members in the settlement of Itamar, the lifting of a gag order revealed on Sunday.

Palestinian students Amjad Awad, 19, and Hakim Awad 18, both admitted to committing the murder.

Five members of the Fogel family were brutally stabbed to death in their home in the West Bank settlement of Itamar on the night of March 11th. The murderers killed Ehud and Ruth Fogel, along with three of their young children, Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and Hadas, 3 months old, before fleeing the scene.

The two suspects, who are unrelated to one another, were identified as members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine along with several members of their family.

Shin Bet investigators have at this point not identified the murder as being carried out under the auspices of the Popular Front organization. According to what is currently known, the murders were carried out independently by the two suspects.

Six additional Palestinian suspects from Awad were also arrested in connection to the crime, four of whom belong to the same family. The six purportedly aided the two alleged perpetrators in hiding the murder weapon and in suppressing additional evidence. One of the six is a member of the Popular Front organization whom the suspects supposedly asked for a weapon to carry out a terror attack. Another one of the six is a resident of Ramallah at whose home the murder weapon was hidden.

An investigation revealed that the two suspects decided that they would carry out the murder on Friday afternoon, hours before the murder was carried out. According to the investigation, the two left Awarta at nine p.m. carrying an umbrella, several knives and wire cutting shears.

According to the investigation, it took the suspects about ten minutes to cut the fence which separates the settlement of Itamar from the Palestinian village of Awarta. They climbed the security barrier at the settlement unnoticed and walked about 400 meters into the settlement. Once inside the settlement, they broke into an empty home and stole an M-16 rifle, a weapons cartridge, a vest and a helmet before proceeding to the Fogel family's home.

Before entering the house, the suspects noticed Yoav and Elad Fogel in the home's window. Yoav and Elad were the first to be stabbed after the suspect entered the home. The suspects then entered the parents' room. Ehud and Ruth tried to fight off the attackers, but were eventually overcome and stabbed to death. Ruth was also shot, but due to the weather at the time of the murder, the gunshots were not heard. The suspects fled the home, fearing that the gunshots had been heard.

Outside of the home, the suspects realized that their gunshots had gone unnoticed and they had not yet been discovered. Amjad Awad subsequently reentered the home in order to steal an additional M-16 rifle that was there. Back inside the parents' room, Awad noticed three-month-old Hadas and stabbed her to death. While leaving the home once more, the suspect noticed that there were more children but apparently figured that he was running out of time. The lives of Roi Fogel, 8, and Yishai Fogel, 2, were spared.

The two suspects escaped the settlement at around 11 pm. An hour and a half later, twelve-year-old Tamar Fogel returned home from a youth group meeting and discovered the murder scene.

During the time that lapsed before the murder was discovered, the suspects fled Itamar and arrived back at Awarta, at the home of Salah Awad, the uncle of Hakim. According to the investigation, the suspects told Salah what they had done. Salah helped them hide the knives that they used in the murder and the weapons which they stole, as well as helped burn their clothes, which were covered in blood.

Israel Defense Forces troops arrived at the scene of the murder and made sure that there were no terrorists in the area. The IDF troops, along with the Shin Bet then left to carry out arrests in Awarta, to which a trail from the murder had led. Hundreds of the village's 8,000 residents were arrested in the ongoing investigation.

Investigators came upon Hakim Awad on April 5th, and after he confessed to the crime, his alleged partner Amjad Awad confessed five days later. During the investigation the father of Hakim was arrested along with two of his uncles and his brother. In addition, the man who the suspects supposedly approached to procure a weapon was arrested along with the Ramallah resident at whose home the two M-16 rifles were found hidden.

According to a senior Shin Bet official, despite the suspects' young age, Hakim and Amjad "described what they did with self-control and did not express regret over their actions at any stage of the investigation."

The same official said that the two suspects went to Itamar with the clear intention of carrying out a terror attack and stealing weapons.