TEL AVIV — An Israeli couple were fatally shot as they were driving in their car with four of their children in the West Bank on Thursday night. The children escaped with light injuries.
The attack occurred shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York and said he wanted to renew peace talks with Palestinians.
An Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said the couple were Israeli citizens in their 30s and that four of their six children were in the back seat of the car. The four children ranged in age from 4 months to 9 years.
Authorities identifed the victims as Eitam Henkin, a rabbi, and his wife, Naama Henkin, who lived in the Jewish settlement of Neria in the West Bank.
Israeli troops were searching the area where the vehicle was hit by bullets. Israeli police said the shots were fired from a passing vehicle.
The killing occurred in a fractious quadrant of the occupied West Bank, where Jewish settlers live beside Palestinian villagers in an area controlled by the Israeli military but where Palestinians hope to carve out a state. The area is the scene of frequent clashes; in the summer, arsonists suspected of being Jewish extremists torched a Palestinian home, killing three family members.
Hussam Badran, a spokesman for the militant Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip but is increasingly popular in the West Bank, said, “We praise the heroic operation conducted by resistance fighters in the West Bank that killed two settlers and wounded others east of Nablus.”
The Hamas military wing tweeted that it hoped the attack “won’t be the last one, God willing.”
Israeli officials accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting the attack. Abbas addressed the United Nations on Wednesday and said Israel’s ongoing expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank was undermining peace efforts. Abbas and his Palestinian Authority have vowed to support a nonviolent path toward a state.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovley said Abbas “incites and inflames the murderous mechanism that drives the terrorist attacks.”
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said: “A nation whose leaders incite murder will never have a state, and that has to be said clearly. The time for talking is over. Now is the time for action.”
Hazem Balousha in Gaza City contributed to this report.