Henkin Murders Were Revenge for Fatal West Bank Arson Attack, Shooters Confess

In their confession to police, the two Palestinians behind October West Bank shooting said they didn't murder the couple's children because Islam forbids it.

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A woman mourns near the grave of Eitam and Naama Henkin after their funeral in Jerusalem, October 2, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Sharon Pulwer

The two Palestinian men who confessed to the shooting deaths of Naama and Eitam Henkin in the West Bank last month carried out the attack to avenge a fatal arson attack on the home of a Palestinian family in July, presumably carried out by Jewish settlers. This, according to suspect statements that were made public Monday.

Yehye Muhammad Naif Abdallah Haj Hamed and Kerem Lutfy Fathi Razek told police they chose not to shoot the Henkins’ four children, who were in the backseat of the family car when their parents, in the front seat, were killed, because “Islam prohibits the murder of children.”

The Henkins were driving near the Itamar settlement on October 1 when their car was ambushed.

Naama Henkin, 30, was the owner and operator of a graphic design studio. Eitam was a doctoral candidate at Tel Aviv University. Their children range in age from 10 months to nine years.

Haj Hamed and Razek were arrested a few days later, together with other members of their five-person Hamas cell.

The suspect statements were disclosed in the state’s response to petitions submitted to the High Court of Justice against planned demolitions of terrorists’ homes.

In their statements, the men said that both Eitam and Naama tried to fight them off.

“When we were parallel to the Israeli vehicle [Haj Hamed] shot several bullets from the car. We saw the Israeli vehicle stop at the roadside and we got out to check the occupants. I was holding a pistol and [Haj Hamed] an M16,” Razek said.

“I went to the driver’s side door, opened it and saw a man with blood on his face who tried to take the pistol away from me. [Haj Hamed] fired from the other door; I was wounded in my left arm and the pistol dropped,” Razek said, relating how his partner shot him by mistake.

Haj Hamed told investigators that Naama Henkin attacked him when his initial burst of gunfire missed her.

“I got out of the car after firing 10 to 15 automatic rounds. I switched magazines and approached the woman sitting next to the driver. I opened the door and saw her sitting there, unharmed.

“I saw the driver of the Israeli car starting to wrestle with [Razek] and fired several rounds with the gun on automatic. I was attacked by the woman and I fired at her, too, and killed her on the spot.”

The men told police they deliberately did not harm the children.

“When I shot the woman I saw there were three or four children in the car, but I didn’t fire in their direction; we got back into our car and drove off,” Haj Hamed said in his statement.

“Islam forbids murdering children. My character doesn’t let me kill or hurt a baby. Our religion also says, ‘blood for blood,’ we carried out the murder so the settlers would understand that everything they do has a price and in the future they should think a hundred times before murdering Palestinians.”

Haj Hamed said the attack was revenge for the arson attack in the village of Duma in late July, presumably by Jews. Ali Dawabsheh, aged 18 months, died in the fire. His father, Sa’ad Dawabsheh, died eight days later, while his mother, Reham Dawabsheh, died in early September, both in Israeli hospitals. A 4-year-old boy remains hospitalized.

“I’ve belonged to Hamas since two years ago,” Haj Hamed told police. “Around a year and a half ago I was invited to take part in military activity, and after the attack in Duma we decided to do something to avenge the murder of the Dawabsheh family.”

Asked why it was decided to attack a civilian vehicle and not a military one, he said, “The attack in Duma was carried out by settlers, not the army; that’s why we sought to kill settlers in revenge. I am not sorry and have no regrets, because in my eyes the people we killed are not innocent.”

In addition to the suspect statements, the state also listed 10 demolitions of terrorists’ homes since 2013, including the amount of time between court approval and each demolition. This, at the requested of Justice Hanan Melcer, who said, “They claim that it’s the courts that delay the demolitions, so if the state delays we want to know why.”

Five demolitions took place within a week after court approval. Four were carried out months after approval was given. The home of a Palestinian who deliberately drove a vehicle into a group of people at the Shimon Hatzadik light-rail station in Jerusalem was not demolished due to what the state called “operational considerations.”

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