Cab Driver Admits to Suspected Nationalist Murder of Israeli Woman - Then Retracts

Israeli Arab from Galilee admits to murdering Shelly Dadon; though motive remains inconclusive, Shin Bet officials view the murder as an act of terror.

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Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service released Sunday new information regarding the murder of a Shelly Dadon, a 20-year-old woman found dead two months ago in an abandoned parking lot in northern Israel. According to police, the motive remains inconclusive but security officials say they view the murder as an act of terror.

A primary suspect has been arrested in the murder: Hussein Khalifa, a 34-year-old taxi driver from the Galilee village of I'bilin confessed to the murder and even reenacted the murder, but later retracted his statement, the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service said.

Khalifa was arrested some three weeks ago. Police subsequently arrested his brother, Hamid Khalifa, and Shfaram resident Mohammad I'saf, 38, manager of the taxi stand from where leased the cab.

Khalifa was arrested June 16, more than six weeks after Dadon's body was found in an industrial area near Migdal Haemek. According to the Shin Bet, Khalifa gave Dadon, who was on her way to a job interview in Ramat Gavriel, a ride in his taxi, taking her to an abandoned parking lot, where he allegedly stabbed her to death. Afterward, the officials say, he discarded the knife, her wallet and her cellphone next to the nearby village of Beit Zarzir.

The three jailed suspects were initially forbidden from meeting with their lawyers, who were appointed on their behalf by the public defender, though it was not clear if the motive was nationalist or criminal. Both Hamid Khalifa and I'saf were released and only Hussein remained under arrest.

In addition to murder, the three were accused of illegal assembly, a security offense. Because of the security angle, the Shin Bet is involved in the investigation, allowing the police to withhold lawyer privileges from the suspect for 10 days and the others for eight days. He was remanded another week on Thursday. Israeli law permits denying a security detainee from meeting with a lawyer for 10 days initially and up to 21 days with court approval.

Khalifa's lawyer, Ahmad Raslan, says his client was beaten and denied sleep by his interrogators. The lawyer says Khalifa supplied information that seemed to be details only the murderer would know, but that his interrogators led him to this information with various hints.

The police began the investigation with six detainees, including minors, who were also denied legal consultation because of suspicions that the murder was nationalistically motivated - although there was no evidence to back this claim. A gag order was put on the case until last week, when Supreme Court Justice Hanan Meltzer accepted a Haaretz petition to release part of its details.

According to the newly released information, the Nazareth Magistrates Court ordered the police to release one of the minors on May 15 and the rest only two days later.

Gil Eliahu