Teen Suspect in Be'er Sheva Stabbing Claims Self-defense

The high school student suspected of stabbing fellow classmate Phillip Gellar left the victim to bleed to death at around 4 A.M. Saturday.

A Be'er Sheva high school student suspected of fatally stabbing a classmate over the weekend said in court yesterday that he had not intended to kill Philip Geller, and had stabbed the victim in self-defense.

The suspect told police earlier that Geller had tried to hit him with a rock.

Geller was buried in the Be'er Sheva cemetery yesterday.

The Be'er Sheva Magistrate's Court yesterday extended by six days the remand of the suspect, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor.

The 16-year-old suspect, whom Geller's mother and others described as a good friend of the victim, left the victim to bleed to death at around 4 A.M. Saturday and did not call the police or an ambulance, police said.

But a friend said the suspect and five other teenagers involved in the fracas, which took place at the end of a party at the suspect's house at which alcohol was served, initially tried to seek help.

"They did call for an ambulance, and no one answered," the friend said. "They didn't run away. ... These are good kids who didn't mean to run away and leave Philip bleeding."

One of Geller's friends said the fight was the result of drinking.

"It's all because of the alcohol," he said. "They're two normal kids who got dragged into this situation. It's a sad story."

The police confirmed that alcohol played a prominent role in the stabbing.

"There is a worrisome trend of drinking alcohol. The age of the users and the drinkers is going down from year to year," said the commander of the Be'er Sheva police station, Yossi Cohen. "We are very active in eradicating the phenomenon of minors and youth drinking alcohol. We have and will take serious action against convenience stores and clubs that sell alchol to minors."

Cohen said police shut down dozens of businesses this year for more than 30 days at a time because of alcohol sales to minors, in an effort "to prevent crime and violence among young people."

He said the weekend stabbing shows that isn't enough, and suggested that educators and parents get involved in attempting to keep teens from drinking.

Hundreds of people attended Geller's funeral yesterday, the same day that some of his classmates were taking a matriculation exam in language at their school.

"Everyone here is still shocked by what happened," one of Geller's classmates said at the school. "We can't understand how something like this could happen to our friends. [Geller and the suspect] were good friends, they hung out and had fun together. This incident has made us all dumbfounded."

Geller's school, considered one of the leading high schools in the city, had grief counselors available yesterday, and students lit memorial candles for Geller near the school's entrance.

Geller's mother, Marina Geller, said the suspect had been at their house just two days before the stabbing.

"The murder suspect was his friend," she said. "He would come to the house and hang out with him, and Philip would visit him." On Thursday, she recalled, the suspect helped Philip move an old table.

"I'm still in shock," said Marina. "I don't know how he could have done this. What right did he have to take my son's life?"