Itamar "Breakthrough" Still Unclear
Yesterday, the Israeli government released what they called “a breakthrough” in the Itamar case, the murders of five members of the Fogel family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar last month. The headline from Ynet news called the Itamar case “solved.”
Since the March 11th murders, the Shin Bet, the IOF and the police have routinely raided and besieged Awarta, the nearby Palestinian village, continually if sporadically detaining villagers, enforcing curfews, and curtailing media access. Immediately following the murders, the entire village was declared a “closed military zone” and drones flew over head as the village rationed water, food and gas.
Between 600 and 700 villagers have been arrested, Ma’an news reported. The human rights advocacy group Addameer denounced the campaign in Awarta as one of indiscriminate collective punishment and called for intervention from the international community. There were hundreds of arrests and “no arrest warrants were presented,” the advocacy group said.
Ghassan Khatib, a representative from the Palestinian Authority called the events in Awarta, “endless campaigns of barbaric acts committed by the Israeli occupation army against the people of Awarta.”
There was no official Israeli news coming out of Awarta due to a media gag-order, but on Sunday, April 17th Israeli authorities announced their breakthrough. Two young men (who share the same family name but are not directly related), Amjad Awad, 19, and Hakim Awad 18, admitted to committing the murders.
The IOF’s report, picked up by Haaretz, the New York Times and Arutz Sheva without scrutiny, offers a play-by-play accounting of the murders. The two suspects were brought to the Fogel family home where they, according to the military, detailed their crime. After stealing a Itamar neighbor’s M16, they stabbed two sleeping children, shot the Fogel parents, and silenced their crying baby with a knife.
Their confessions took place after prolonged interrogations, however, and may be the result of coercion.
“Five months ago Hakim underwent surgery,” said Nawef Awad, Hakim’s mother to Ynet. “I’m sure he was tortured and forced into confessing.”
Hakim was unable do carry out such a gruesome crime, said Nawef, because he was still recovering from a November testicular surgery. She also stated that on March 11th, the night of the murders, “he was at home and went to bed at 9:30.”
Hakim’s sister Julia was also detained, interrogated and put under “severe psychological pressure,” Nawef said.
Itamar is one of 121 Israeli colonies located in the Palestinian West Bank which, under international law, are illegal. Among Palestinians, Itamar has a reputation of being one of the more rigid, Orthodox settlements.