The Palestinian Authority condemned the incident, for which Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement claimed responsibility.
Palestinian sources said the Israeli Army installed more checkpoints on the roads leading to Nablus and prevented Palestinian vehicles and pedestrians from entering or leaving the city.
The sources added that Israeli forces also broke into the villages of Awarta and Burka in northern Nablus and started searching houses and questioning residents. Troops arrested 20 Palestinians in Awarta.
The Israeli Army also raided several villages to the south of Jenin in search for the attackers. No arrests were reported. The attackers managed to escape after killing the parents and three children aged between three months and 11 years, Israel Radio reported.
The group said in a press statement that “the heroic operation is a natural response to the (Israeli) occupation crimes against our people in West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
Meanwhile, Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority of arresting three of its activists from Qalqilyah and Jenin following the attack. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman said: “The report of five murdered Israelis is not enough to punish someone. However, we completely support the resistance against settlers who murder and use crime and terror against the Palestinian people under the auspices of the Israeli occupation soldiers.”
In Gaza, Islamic Jihad and Al-Nasser Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, lauded the attack.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the army would use any means possible to catch the culprits.
Itamar, home to over 100 Orthodox Jewish families, is surrounded by Palestinian territories, and has seen attacks against Israeli occupiers before. In June 2002, a Palestinian armed with rifle broke into a house in the settlement and killed a woman and her three children.
(Hisham Abu Taha contributed to this report)