JERUSALEM (JTA) — The five members of a terror cell allegedly responsible for the drive-by killing of an Israeli couple in their car were arrested.
A Hamas-affiliated cell in the West Bank city of Nablus was arrested Monday during a joint operation conducted by the Shin Bet security agency, the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police, according to statements released by the security agencies.
Following the announcement of the cell’s capture, U.S. State Department spokesman Marc Toner confirmed that Rabbi Eitam Henkin, who with his wife, Naama, was killed in the shooting attack, was an American citizen. He was the son of Rabbi Yehuda and Chana Henkin, who moved to Israel from the United States in the 1970s and in 1990 founded Nishmat, an institute for advanced Torah study for women in Jerusalem.
Each of the Palestinian men arrested had a defined role in the attack, according to a Shin Bet statement announcing their capture. One checked the route, three were in the vehicle used in the attack — a driver and two gunmen — and a cell commander, who was not in the vehicle, the statement said. Several additional suspects have been arrested on suspicion of aiding the cell, according to the Shin Bet.
During questioning, the cell members reportedly said that after they opened fire on the car carrying the Henkins and their four young children, they left their vehicle and fired on the couple at close range.
During the shooting, one cell member was shot accidentally by one of his colleagues and dropped his pistol, which was left at the scene and found by Israeli forces. After carrying out the shooting, the alleged attackers fled toward Nablus, according to the Shin Bet.
The cell members also said that they had been involved in two shooting attacks in recent weeks, neither of which resulted in casualties, the Shin Bet reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the arrests in a statement issued Monday evening.
“We are acting with a strong hand against terrorism and against inciters,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister thanked Israel’s security forces, “who have been working around the clock for our security; they are doing excellent work.”
Netanyahu added: “We are in a difficult struggle but one thing should be clear – we will win. Just as we defeated previous waves of terrorism, we will defeat this one as well.”