Israel sends troops after settler couple killed in West Bank

AP News
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Posted: Oct 02, 2015 7:27 AM
Israel sends troops after settler couple killed in West Bank

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's military deployed hundreds of troops in the West Bank on Friday, a day after a drive-by shooting by suspected Palestinian gunmen killed a Jewish settler couple driving home with their children.

The attack took place late Thursday when gunmen opened fire at a vehicle travelling near the Palestinian village of Beit Furik. The shots killed Eitam and Naama Henkin, residents of the Jewish West Bank settlement of Neria. Their four young children, including a four-month old infant, were in the back seat of the car, but were unharmed.

On Friday, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon visited the site, pledging to catch the perpetrators and, like other Israeli politicians, blaming Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for inciting such violence.

Thousands attended the parents' funeral on Friday in Jerusalem, including Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

"We cannot stand silently when the hands of murderers steal a loving mother and father away from their children," Rivilin said in a eulogy. "We are facing a brutal terrorist onslaught."

The attack comes on the heels of a series of Palestinian rock and firebomb attacks that have prompted Israel to vow to quash such threats.

It also followed a hard-line speech at the United Nations by Abbas, the last of several that Israeli leaders have condemned as incitement. Abbas has said that Israelis desecrate a Jerusalem holy site with their "dirty feet" and charged that Israel was committed to the "ethnic cleansing" of his people.

Speaking before the U.N. General Assembly, Abbas said Israel had repeatedly violated its commitments, most notably by expanding settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, on lands the Palestinians seek for a future state, and accused Israel of waging "a new war of genocide ... against the Palestinian people."

"A people whose leader encourages murder will never have a state and this must be stated clearly," said Cabinet minister Naftali Bennett, head of the pro-settler Jewish Home party.

Settler leaders said they planned to stage a protest in front of the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who is currently in New York after addressing the United Nations — to demand tougher action to defend the settlers from militants.

Gaza's Islamic militant Hamas rulers welcomed Thursday's attack but stopped short of claiming responsibility for it. Abbas' Palestinian Authority did not comment on the attack.

Tensions have continued to flare between Israelis and Palestinians over the Jerusalem site known to Jews as the Temple Mount, home to the biblical Temples, and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, site of the Al-Aqsa mosque and the spot from where the Prophet Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven.