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Israel launches manhunt after couple shot dead

Israel has deployed hundreds of its soldiers in the occupied West Bank after gunmen killed an Israeli couple in front of their children. The Israeli military has said a manhunt is underway.

The Israeli military said on Friday that security forces were conducting an "intensive search" of the area where an Israeli couple was killed, combined with a wider intelligence investigation.

Eitam and Naama Henkin were shot dead when gunmen opened fire on their car late on Thursday. The couple, who were in their 30s, had been driving between the settlements of Itamar and Elon More, in the north of the Palestinian territory.

Their four children, aged between four months and nine years, were found physically unharmed in the back of the vehicle.

Amid

rising tension,

the Israeli army said it would be deploying "four battalions in order to prevent an escalation of violence in the area adjacent to the location of the attack."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

condemned the killings, vowing that security services would work to "capture the murderers and improve security for all Israeli citizens."

Vengeance cited as motive

The army reported that, in a nearby village, a car had been set alight with the words "Revenge Henkin" sprayed on a wall.

The shooting took place near the village of Beit Furik, where a Palestinian was killed by Israeli forces during clashes last month. In late July, suspected Jewish extremists firebombed a Palestinian home in the village of Duma,

killing toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha and his parents.

While it did not take part in the attack, the Palestinian militant group Hamas hailed those behind it.

"This operation was in response to the crimes of the Zionists," it said in a statement.

Israeli has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War, in an operation that has never been recognized by the international community. Some Israeli nationalists claim the entire West Bank is a part of Israel, with an expanding number of Jewish settlements on land the Palestinians seek as part of a future state.

rc/sms (AFP, AP)

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