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2 Palestinians arrested in settler murder

April 17, 2011 12:18 P.M. (Updated: April 18, 2011 2:03 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel has arrested two main Palestinian suspects in connection with the murder of a young settler family in the West Bank, Israeli security officials said Sunday.

The announcement was the first public information about the results of an investigation that spanned more than a month since the March 11 slaying of the Fogel family in the settlement of Itamar.

In a briefing document obtained by AFP, Israel's internal security agency Shin Bet said it had arrested two main suspects and five suspected accomplices.

"The two, residents of the village of Awarta, confessed during the investigation to planning and carrying out the attack and staged a reconstruction," the Shin Bet document said.

Six of the men arrested in connection with the case are members of the Awad family from the village of Awarta, and a seventh, a resident of Ramallah, was a friend of one of the suspected accomplices, the document said.

The Israeli military confirmed the arrests. Colonel Nimrod Aloni, commander of the Shomron Brigade in the northern area of the occupied West Bank told a briefing: "We can say that the murderers are in our hands."

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the "two people suspected of the attack were arrested and confessed, and they are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.."

He named the men as Hakim Awad, who he said was arrested on April 5, and his relative Amjad Awad, who was arrested on April 10, saying both were residents of the West Bank village of Awarta.

The village, which lies near Itamar, has been the central focus of the investigation into the murders.

It was put under curfew shortly after the attack, and Israeli troops have arrested dozens of its residents, prompting the local council head to accuse Israel of a policy of "collective punishment."

Investigation procedures sparked concern in the international and human rights communities, with several military curfews imposed on the village, mass detentions of residents, home-to-home searches and forcible detentions of elderly women and children.

Village leaders called for international observers to come to the area and ensure no further rights abuses. Rights groups noted that none of the residents detained, questioned and compelled to give fingerprints and DNA samples were given access to a lawyer. Detainees were held for days and weeks without charge, and some said they were badly beaten in Israeli custody.

In Awarta, Hakim Awad's mother, Nouf Awad, told AFP it was "impossible" that her son had committed the murder.

"It wasn't my son who did it," she said. "It is impossible that it's him, he was with me the whole night that the incident happened."

In Itamar, the neighbor who discovered the Fogel family's bodies, welcomed the arrests, but said the community was trying to move past the slaying.

"It's positive that they caught the murderers, the most important thing is that this should never happen again," Rabbi Yaakov Cohen told AFP.

"We're not looking for revenge, despite the feeling of loss, life goes back to normal," he said.

The brutal stabbing occurred late on March 11, as the family was sleeping in the settlement located southeast of Nablus.

Ehud and Ruth Fogel were stabbed as they slept, along with three of their children -- a three-month-old baby girl, and two others aged three and 11.

Two other children who were at home during the attack were spared. A third child, their 10-year-old daughter, was out during the attack, arriving home afterward and alerting neighbors that something was wrong.

The attack was condemned by the Palestinian Authority and the international community, and no claim of responsibility was issued by any Palestinian militant group.

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