Itamar. Killers knew the town.
Itamar. Killers knew the town.Israel news photo: Arutz Sheva

The IDF lifted a gag order on the investigation of the murder of five members of the Fogel family on Sunday, and revealed the identities of two young Palestinian Authority Arab men who have confessed to the vicious crime. The announcement caused particular excitement and distress for Itamar security workers, who recognized one of the killers as having been in the town shortly before the killings – with IDF permission.

Hakim Awad, 18, was permitted to enter Itamar along with other PA Arabs in order to harvest olives.

The IDF Civil Administration allowed PA Arabs from the nearby village of Awarta to harvest olives within Itamar that they claimed belonged to their village, despite concerns voiced by Itamar residents, who expressed fear that some PA Arabs could use the opportunity to learn the layout of the town in order to plan an attack.

Residents of Itamar even said they would be willing to pick the olives themselves, and deliver them to residents of Awarta, rather than open their town to potentially hostile PA residents. However, Civil Administration officials insisted that Awarta residents not only be given possession of the olives in question, but be allowed to harvest the produce themselves.

Residents reported Sunday that one of the PA “farmers” had been caught red-handed as he took pictures of IDF positions in Itamar during the harvest. The man was detained for questioning, but released on the orders of the Civil Administration.

The security guard's report may explain a comment a Shin Bet official made regarding the murders. The Shin Bet man said the killers had not spied on the town prior to the murders, because they were already familiar with its layout.

The IDF and the Civil Administration face pressure each year from the PA and the foreign and Israeli left to allow Arabs to harvest olives freely, regardless of security concerns. Many far-left groups, among them the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and Rabbis for Human Rights, hold annual “olive harvest” events aimed at forcing Israel to allow PA Arabs to enter Israeli land during the harvest.