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Soldier: Accusations he knew of Hebron attack ‘lies and deceit’

January 2, 1997

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Police are investigating a possible conspiracy behind the New Year’s Day shooting in a crowded Hebron market, but a second Israeli soldier detained Thursday called the accusations against him ``lies and deceit.″

``I am innocent. I made no conspiracy,″ Pvt. Yuval Jibli said, burying his face in his sweater to hide his identity. A court ordered him held on allegations that he knew about off-duty Pvt. Noam Friedman’s plans to open fire on Palestinians in the market.

Jibli, 21, was ordered held for four days while police investigate allegations of conspiracy and ``non-prevention of a crime.″

Friedman, 22, said he acted alone in planning and carrying out Wednesday’s shooting in which five Palestinians were injured. He said he hoped to hamper Israel’s planned pullout from most of the West Bank city.

His attorney, Naphtali Werzberger, said Friedman was unhappy in the army and had asked an army psychologist to recommend his discharge, but was denied. No immediate comment was available from the army.

Werzberger said Friedman has a heart problem that also affected his state of mind. He said his client recently became more devout, growing a beard and refusing to eat army food that did not have special rabbinical approval.

Friedman has said he hoped to stop Israel’s withdrawal from most of Hebron.

``I acted alone. It was my decision,″ he said after a judge in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva ordered him held for 10 days while charges are prepared. Jibli appeared in the same court. Asked about Jibli, Friedman said: ``I have no idea why he was arrested.″

Jibli served with Friedman on a logistics base near Jerusalem. According to Israeli media, he entered an Arab village on Wednesday and shot two bullets into the air.

Like Friedman, he wore the black skullcap of Orthodox Jews during his court appearance.

``It’s all lies and deceit,″ he said of the charges against him.

Jibli’s mother, Aviva, told Channel 2 TV that her son did not return to his Jerusalem home from his base Wednesday night, and in the morning ``they called us and said he was arrested.″

She said her son knew Friedman, who had visited their home once. But she insisted that ``Yuval is a regular boy, not an extremist. He is against these things. I don’t believe he could be an accomplice to such a thing. We are shocked, simply shocked.″

Friedman’s grandmother, Esther Reiss, said her grandson was ``educated in an open, liberal home (to be) tolerant of any view and religion.″

``I don’t know what happened to him.″

But others said Friedman had shown signs of instability.

A rabbi who taught at Friedman’s yeshiva, or Jewish seminary, said that a few months ago Friedman started showing signs of ``strange behavior.″ Rabbi Elisha Vishlitsky said Friedman began to speak of having divine revelations and was expelled with a recommendation to seek psychiatric help.

The army said it has ordered an investigation into why Friedman was enlisted and given a rifle even though a municipal psychiatrist in his West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim had found him unfit to serve.

Friedman was a classmate of Nachshon Wachsman, an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Palestinian militants in 1994 and killed during an Israeli rescue attempt.

Wachsman’s father, Yehuda, told The Associated Press that Friedman was disturbed by his son’s death, came to their home several times and ``mentioned the need to avenge Nachshon’s death.″

Friedman was ``a little bit strange, but never seemed to me mentally unbalanced,″ Wachsman said.

Friedman told reporters Wednesday that he was ``completely normal″ and wasn’t sorry for what he had done. Asked why he shot at innocent Palestinians, he said: ``They’re not innocent. They hate the Jews.″

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