Israeli teen wounded in April 7 bus attack dies

AP News
Posted: Apr 17, 2011 1:52 PM
Israeli teen wounded in April 7 bus attack dies

A 16-year-old Israeli boy who was wounded when an anti-tank rocket fired from Gaza hit a school bus 10 days ago died Sunday of his injuries without regaining consciousness, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Two Palestinian teenagers, meanwhile, are in custody, suspected of the stabbing deaths of five members of a West Bank settler family, including small children, Israeli authorities said.

The April 7 school bus attack provoked a harsh response in the form of Israeli airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza. The exchanges of rocket fire and airstrikes threatened to spiral into an all-out conflict before an informal cease-fire restored relative calm.

In a statement Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "Israel will not rest until justice is done to the attackers."

The arrests in the stabbing capped a monthlong investigation that involved mass arrest raids and detentions of hundreds of villagers.

The attackers sneaked into the settlement of Itamar on March 11 and killed the family members as they slept. Among the victims was a 3-month-old baby girl, along with her parents, Udi and Ruth Fogel, and two other children, ages 4 and 11.

Grisly pictures from the attack, along with the ages of the young victims, outraged Israelis. The search for the killers focused on the neighboring Palestinian village of Awarta, which was put under curfew while residents were systematically arrested, interrogated, fingerprinted and forced to give DNA samples.

The two suspects, teenagers from Awarta, belonged to a small PLO faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, although it appeared they acted independently, said Col. Nimrod Aloni, a West Bank military commander. The mother of one of the suspects said her son is innocent.

Aloni said the teenagers said during questioning that they "wanted to test their courage and bravery" by penetrating the settlement and stealing a rifle. He said the pair claimed they did not initially plan to kill anyone, but panicked when the baby started crying, endangering their escape.

"My estimation is that they worked independently with no direction whatsoever," he said.

Israel's Channel 2 TV quoted from what it said was the interrogation of the two, saying that they intended to kill Jews and expressed no remorse.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the suspects confessed to a well-planned murder plot from the outset. It was unclear why his version differed from the military commander's account.

Authorities identified the suspects as Hakim Awad, who was arrested on April 5, and Amjad Awad, taken into custody on April 10. They said they are cousins, and that five other Palestinians have been arrested as suspected accomplices.

Police said the pair re-enacted how they infiltrated the settlement and carried out the killings.

Authorities did not give precise ages of the suspects, but Awarta residents said Hakim Awad is 17, and Amjad Awad is 18.

Nouf Awad, the mother of Hakim, said her son is innocent and accused Israel of forcing him to confess.

"He is in high school. I am sure that he spent the night of the incident at home," she told The Associated Press. "This is an awful crime and my son would not commit such a crime."

She said her husband, another son and a 16-year-old daughter remained in Israeli custody.

Palestinians seek the West Bank for part of a future state and view the Israeli settlements there as a serious obstacle.

Itamar, a community of 1,000 people in the northern West Bank near the Palestinian city of Nablus, is known for its nationalistic population and poor relations with neighboring Palestinian villages.

The government responded to the slayings by approving construction of hundreds of new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, drawing condemnations from around the world. "They murder. We build," Netanyahu said at the time.

Palestinian leaders also condemned the killings. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas granted a rare interview to state-run Israel Radio to denounce the attack as "despicable, immoral and inhuman."


Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this article.