Dozens of Palestinians were arrested and given DNA tests in the West Bank town of Awarta in connection to the recent murder of five family members in the nearby settlement of Itamar, Ma’an News Agency reported on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, suspected terrorists entered the West Bank settlement of Itamar and murdered Udi and Ruth Fogel, along with three of their young children, including their three-month-old baby, before fleeing the scene.
Ma’an reported that among those arrested was the deputy mayor of Awarta and two of his brothers.
Awarta Mayor Qays Awwad told Ma’an that more than 60 Awarta residents were taken to an Israeli military base, where they were fingerprinted and underwent DNA testing. “They took samples for DNA tests, and were fingerprinted before being interrogated, some were released but more are being kept in custody,” Awwad said.
Israel Radio reported that 100 citizens of Awarta remain in custody since the beginning of the wave of arrests made in the wake of the murders.
The Israel Defense Forces have launched an investigation into the murders, which is being overseen by the Samaria District brigade commander, Col. Nimrod Aloni, and the IDF commander in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon.
Following the murders, Defense Minister Ehud Barak vowed that Israel would use every means possible to track down those responsible.
The settlement of Itamar has witnessed several terrorist attacks in the past. In May 2002, a terrorist infiltrated the settlement through its surrounding fence and shot three teens to death.
Less than a month later, in June 2002, a terrorist entered the settlement again and barricaded himself in the home of the Shabo family. He shot and killed the mother of the family and three of her young children, as well as the community’s security coordinator who arrived at the home hoping to rescue the family.