After the stabbing deaths of five family members, including an 11-year old, 4-year old, and 3-month old baby on Friday night in the northern West Bank, Israeli troops set up checkpoints around the area and conducted raids on several villages and towns, abducting twenty.The Israeli military investigators have not indicated that they have any actual leads in the case, instead abducting Palestinians that are on existing lists compiled by the Israeli military, and Palestinians who were out in the area when the raids began early Saturday morning.

At dawn, Israeli troops re-opened Huwwara, the major checkpoint into the Palestinian city of Nablus that was abandoned by the military two years ago, in a security arrangement with the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli officials called on the Palestinian Authority to assist with the investigation of the crime. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, of the Fateh party, offered support, and strongly condemned the attack.

Izzat al-Rishiq, a member of the political bureau of the Hamas movement, said that Hamas had nothing to do with this attack, adding that the Hamas movement and other Palestinian resistance movements do not target children. Al-Rishiq speculated that the attack could be criminally motivated, similar to other brutal crimes that have shocked Israeli society in the past.

The Palestinian Popular Committee Against the Wall, which represents the non-violent movement in Palestine, also condemned the attack, and expressed their sorrow and condolences for the family. In their statement, the Committee added that they view the murders as part of the escalation generated by the policies of the Israeli occupation, as these policies created the circumstances out of which these heinous acts arose. The Committee stated, ‘Although the crime was committed on colonized land, we see the killing of children as a despicable crime, regardless of nationality, gender or religion.’

Israeli Army Chief of Staff Benny Gantz told reporters with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, ‘This is a crime committed by animals. We are continuously evaluating the situation and are in the midst of an intelligence-based and operational search. We will not rest until we catch the murderers.’

Israeli President Shimon Peres stated that, ‘This is one of the most difficult and despicable events that we have seen – the murder of parents and their young children including a 3 year old and a one month old baby, on the Sabbath.’

The murder of the Israeli family in Itamar comes two weeks after Israeli investigators ruled that an Israeli missile strike in Gaza in 2002 that killed 14 Palestinian civilians, including 8 small children (5 from the same family) was justified. No Israeli soldiers or officials were punished for that attack.