Police widen probe into whether assassin acted alone

JERUSALEM — Israeli police are continuing to clamp down on right-wing radicals in the wake of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, and widening the probe into whether his confessed killer acted alone.

Police this week served indictments against more than 50 settlers accused of disturbing the public order or attacking Palestinians or their property.

Among those charged this week were Rabbi Moshe Levinger, the founder of the Jewish settlement in Hebron; Baruch Marzel, a former Kach leader who has been under house arrest for more than one year; Itamar Ben-Gvir, spokesman for the militant group Eyal; and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of the West Bank town of Efrat, the site of clashes between settlers and soldiers in recent months.

On Wednesday, police arrested a 20-year-old woman from the West Bank settlement of Beit El in connection with the assassination. The woman is a student at Bar-Ilan University, the same school that Rabin's confessed killer, Yigal Amir, attended.

She was the eighth person arrested in the case. Police said the woman was not suspected of active participation in the killing but knew of the plot and failed to alert security officials.

A police spokesman said another suspect in the case, Avishai Raviv, leader of Eyal, was released on bail and placed under house arrest at his parents' home for seven days.

Although Amir said he acted alone, police are studying whether his act came as part of a broader right-wing conspiracy.

Police Minister Moshe Shahal said on Israel Television Friday of last week that the ongoing investigation had two tracks: one into the specific activities of Yigal Amir, and the other into Eyal, to which he allegedly belonged.

Amir reportedly plotted the assassination for months with his older brother Hagai, 27.

They had planned eight previous assassination attempts, initially plotting to kill Rabin outside his home in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Aviv, using a sniper's rifle, Israel Radio reported.

Hagai Amir, who was brought before a Tel Aviv court on Sunday, had his custody extended by 12 days. Among other offenses, Hagai Amir is suspected of attempted murder and illegal possession of arms.

Police said Hagai Amir made the lethal dum-dum bullets that his brother allegedly used to kill Rabin.

Hagai Amir said in court that he had nothing to do with his brother's actions, and that his brother "was not crazy. He's mature and knew exactly what he was doing."

But Judge Dan Arbel rejected the idea that Yigal Amir acted alone, adding that evidence had been found of plans to commit other acts of violence, including car bomb attacks against Arabs. Last week, police found a cache of arms and explosives at the Amir home.

A soldier serving in an elite combat unit was arrested Friday of last week on suspicion of supplying arms to the Amir brothers.

The soldier, identified as Arik Schwartz of the religious community of B'nei Brak near Tel Aviv, was arrested after weapons were found during a search of his home.

His father was also detained for allegedly knowing of his son's activities, but was later released. Schwartz's mother was also questioned.

Schwartz was the seventh suspect taken into custody. All the suspects were religious Jews identified with extremist right-wing groups militantly opposed to Rabin's land-for-peace policy with the Palestinians.

On Tuesday, a Tel Aviv court extended the detention of Michael Epstein, 23, of Ramat Gan, who was originally arrested Nov. 8 on suspicion of being involved in the conspiracy.

Police officials reportedly said they no longer believed that Epstein knew in advance of the assassination. But they sought his continued detention, saying that they were investigating his possible involvement in an organization that was planning attacks on Palestinians as a means for disrupting the peace process.

As the probe into a potential conspiracy widened, Rabin's killing spurred closer scrutiny of the Shin Bet domestic security service.

The apparent ease with which Yigal Amir got near Rabin on the night of the assassination prompted the resignation of the man who oversaw the security division charged with looking after the safety of Israeli officials.

The Shin Bet admitted this week that it had been told in advance of a plot to carry out the killing, but had been unable to locate the potential suspect because the information was too general.

The disclosure was the latest blow to the Shin Bet, which came under harsh criticism in the wake of an internal report targeting security lapses that made it possible for the assassin to get within point-blank shooting distance of Rabin at a Nov. 4 peace rally.

The head of the Shin Bet, identified only as "C." for security reasons, told a Knesset commitee Sunday the police informant was Shlomo Halevy, a Jerusalem resident who studied law at Bar-Ilan University with the 25-year-old confessed assassin.

Israel Television reported that Halevy learned of Amir's plans from another friend and then contacted a police officer who was his former commanding officer in the army.

Halevy gave a description of the alleged killer, but not his name. Halevy's lawyer said this week that his client did not want to name Amir, in case the information was not accurate.

The Shin Bet said Halevi told police that at 12:30 a.m. on June 15, in the rest room of the new Tel Aviv central bus station, he overheard two men describing a short, Yemenite, kippah-wearing man who intended to murder Yitzhak Rabin at the first opportunity.

The two mentioned that the man twice confessed his intentions in synagogue. The two sounded neutral and did not seem as if they were planning to prevent the act, Halevi said The Shin Bet chief added that Shin Bet officials had received dozens of reports about possible assassination plans.