Israeli Army Officer’s Testimony Contradicted by Druze Sapper Blinded in Car Bomb Attempt

Suleiman Hirbawi, a Druze border police sapper who was blinded while attempting to defuse a bomb planted in the car of Mayor Ibrahim Tawil of El Bireh in June, 1980, testified in Jerusalem district court that no Israeli army officer was standing close to him when the bomb exploded.

Hirbawi’s testimony last Friday contradicted the version of Capt. Ronni Gila, one of two officers who were attached to the military government on the West Bank at the time and are being tried separately for alleged connections with a Jewish terrorist underground in the territory.

Gila and Maj. Shlomo Levytan have been implicated in the car bombings four years ago which maimed Mayors Basam Shaka of Nablus and Karim Khallaf of Ramallah. Tawil, another target of the assassination attempt, was uninjured. Gila is charged with prior knowledge of a bomb in Tawil’s garage and failure to pass it on to his superiors or to Hirbawi.

He was assigned to guide Hirbawi through the unfamiliar streets of El Bireh to the Mayor’s garage. According to Gila’s testimony he entered the garage with Hirbawi which he would not have done had he known of the bomb. Hirbawi testified Friday that when he entered Tawil’s garage, Gila remained in his jeep. He denied that Gila had said anything to him on the way to the garage.

“I approached the corner of the house. I checked the area. I turned right and I found myself in the hospital,” he said. The trial is scheduled to resume next Friday when former Mayor Tawil will testify.

TERRORIST SUSPECTS SOUGHT

Meanwhile, security forces have still been unable to track down two other suspected members of the Jewish terrorist underground believed to have been directly involved in the car bombings. One suspect, Yossi Indor of Ofra on the West Bank is still at large and believed to be somewhere in Israel or the territories. Another, Ira Rappaport, a Gush Emunim emissary in New York, is still in the U.S. Rappaport is suspected of having planted the bomb in ex-Mayor Shaka’s car along with Indor. The West Bank mayors were since deposed by the Israeli authorities.

A third suspect being sought has not been identified to the public. According to testimony taken so for from other defendants, he was involved in the aborted attempt on the life of Dr. Ahmad Hamzi Natshe in Bethlehem in May, 1980. Natshe is a leader of the Communist Party on the West Bank and was a leader of the National Guidance Committee, an Arab nationalist group, since outlawed, which was a prime target of the Jewish underground.

Neither Indor, Rappaport or the unidentified suspect was named in the indictment of 27 suspected members of the underground. Five of the latter have confessed to lesser charges in a plea bargaining process. One has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and another was sentenced last week to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The remaining 22, all pleading not guilty, went on trial in Jerusalem district court on June 17. Their trial was suspended last week until September 16 when the courts reconvene after the summer recess.

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