RAMALLAH, West Bank — In a letter to the Israeli president just three months ago, Naama Henkin said she had contributed money to a fund for orphaned children, and asked him to do more to protect Jewish families like hers who live in West Bank settlements.
The president, Reuven Rivlin, read the letter at the funeral for Ms. Henkin and her husband, Eitam, on Friday morning. The Henkins were shot dead, apparently by Palestinian gunmen, in the occupied West Bank the night before, and their four children are now among the orphans Ms. Henkin had tried to help.
Hours earlier, a car was burned in the village of Bitilu by vandals who left behind graffiti vowing revenge for the couple’s killing.
The Israeli military deployed four infantry battalions in the West Bank to search for the suspects and to ensure that the roads were kept safe from more attacks, said Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the military.
During a visit on Friday to the site of the shooting, near the Jewish settlement of Itamar and the Palestinian village of Beit Furik, Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, described the attack as part of “a period of an eruption.”
Clashes between Muslims and Jews flared in recent weeks at the contested Jerusalem holy site known as the Temple Mount to Jews and as Al Aqsa, or the Noble Sanctuary, to Muslims. The violence simmered over the summer as the political situation between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority remained stagnant.
This week, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders talked aggressively — and largely past each other — in speeches to the United Nations General Assembly. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday accused President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority of “rejectionism” because of his refusal to resume direct negotiations with Israel with no preconditions. The day before, Mr. Abbas said he would no longer be bound by agreements with Israel if it continued to violate them.
On Friday, after the attack on the Henkins, a senior Palestinian activist said in a telephone interview that Palestinians should “use all methods of resistance” against Jewish settlers. The activist, Sultan al-Einein, a member of the central council of Fatah, the political party led by Mr. Abbas, added, “we should kill their women as they have killed ours.”
His statement came after a branch of a Fatah militant group, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack on its website.
Speaking on Friday in New York, where he met with Secretary of State John Kerry, Mr. Netanyahu complained that Palestinian leaders had failed to condemn the West Bank attack.
“Palestinian terrorists murdered yesterday a young mother and father, leaving four little orphans,” Mr. Netanyahu said, noting the wide condemnation for the deadly shooting at a college in Oregon. “But I have to say, I have yet to hear any condemnation from President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Worse, I heard senior officials from his Fatah movement praise this action. They say this is the way to go. No, it is not the way to go. The way to go for any conceivable arrangement is to fight terrorism and to make sure that terrorism reaps no rewards.”
For years, Mr. Abbas has been trying to suppress the chaotic groups of gunmen that formed the Brigades, part of a wider effort to end lawlessness throughout the West Bank.
Also Friday, settler leaders held demonstrations on West Bank roads and called for a new outpost to be built near the site of the attack.
“That is the fitting Zionist response,” said Yossi Dagan, the chairman of the Samaria Regional Council, a body that oversees Jewish settlers in the West Bank. “That is what the state has always done, and that is how terror is stamped out,” he told Israeli news media.
After Friday Prayer, several dozen Palestinians demonstrated in Hebron, in the southern West Bank, throwing rocks and burning tires. Similar clashes also broke out near two Jewish settlements.
For Palestinians, the attack on the Henkins was seen as retaliation for an arson attack by suspected Jewish extremists in late July that killed a couple and their 18-month-old son, leaving only their 4-year-old son alive. The attack occurred in Duma, which is in the same area as the Jewish settlement of Neria, where the couple lived.
At the funeral on Friday, Mr. Rivlin said he had received the letter from Ms. Henkin after Palestinian assailants killed an Israeli man near a spring in the West Bank in June. It was signed “from a citizen,” he said.
“We face a cruel terror attack and you stand at the forefront and pay an unbearable price,” Mr. Rivlin said. “We will fight terror fearlessly,” he said. “We will fight and all of us will win.”
Ezra Herschberg, one of the couple’s neighbors, said he was not aware of Ms. Henkin’s charitable work, but he understood that Ms. Henkin had urged her friends on social media to write a will, and think of how they wanted the situation to be for their children if they passed away.
“I’m relieved,” he said. “I know that their children have a place to be.”
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(via NY Times)