Family's Murder Adds To Israeli, Palestinian Tensions

A brutal attack on a Jewish family has touched off a new round of tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Five members of the Fogel family were stabbed to death as they slept in their home in a West Bank settlement — an attack Israel has blamed on Palestinian militants. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have both condemned the killings.

NPR's Linda Wertheimer spoke with reporter Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem.

Wertheimer: What can you tell us about what happened in that attack?

Frenkel: Well, police are still putting together the details, but they believe that at least one, or several, individuals entered the northern West Bank settlement of Itamar through a security fence. They believe they must have entered several homes before they came to the Fogel family, where it seems as though most of the family was asleep.

It seems they first attacked two boys, aged 11 and 4. Both of those children were found on the floor of their bedroom, stabbed to death. The father and a 3-month-old baby were found in the main room. The mother appears to have been woken up. She ran for her husband's gun. Her body was found with the greatest number of stab wounds to it.

Three other children of the family managed to escape: Two boys were sleeping in a separate room and were not believed to have been found by their attackers. And a 12-year-old daughter was away at a youth movement activity. She came home to her family's house around midnight and entered with a neighbor to discover that her family had been killed.

Now, when did this happen, exactly?

This happened late Friday night.

And what were people saying at the funeral?

You know, I was really struck by how quiet the funeral was, considering that, you know, police estimated there were more than 20,000 people there. The people I spoke with said that there was mainly just a real sense of shock over the brutality of this attack. ...

[Frenkel plays a clip of one of the children's uncles, Moti Fogel, giving a eulogy.]

His voice is cracking as he addresses each member of the family who died. And he's telling them he wishes he could see them again. He's calling for Israel to be strengthened as a nation, but for them to also remember the Fogel family as individuals, rather than as a national cause.

So, how has the government responded to the attack?

There was a really unique call among the left wing in Israel to form a united front and to condemn these attacks unilaterally.

Various members of the right wing, including politicians from Prime Minister Netanyahu's own Likud party, called for Israel to back Itamar by declaring it a city rather than calling it a settlement and by building extensively there. Lastly, you had the Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu, make several speeches and pay condolences to the Fogel family. He's pledged to build 500 housing units in the West Bank in response to this attack. But other settlers have actually criticized Netanyahu for setting a dangerous precedent and linking settlement building to terrorist attacks.

And what about the reaction from the Palestinians?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has taken a really unusual step, and he went live on Israel Radio and called the attack despicable and inhumane. You also heard high-ranking government officials like Saeb Erekat and other prominent Palestinian journalists coming out and strongly condemning the attack.

No sense yet that anybody knows exactly who did this, whether it was organized or just some murderous group of people?

No, you really haven't heard any distinctive details come out about who could have been responsible for this attack. And I think that the Israel Defense Forces and the police involved in investigating it are keeping their cards very close to their chests and at the moment just looking for any type of intelligence on who was behind this attack, whether it was an organization or an individual.

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