Court Orders Suspect in Deadly Haifa Shooting Remanded in Custody for 10 Days

Suspect surrendered to police on Thursday, two days after fatal shooting of minibus driver and wounding of rabbinical judge. Suspect's lawyer says doesn't understand why police investigating shooting as politically motivated.

Police in Haifa, January 4, 2017.
גיל אליהו

A Haifa court on Friday extended by 10 days the detention of the suspect in the shooting of a rabbinical court judge and a minibus driver.

The suspect surrendered to the police Thursday following a several-day manhunt in the city, and has been handed over to the Shin Bet security service, the police said. His identity has been put under a gag order.

The shooting occurred Tuesday morning when Yechiel Illouz, a rabbinical judge at the Haifa Rabbinical Court who specializes in conversions, was shot on Ha’atzmaut Street in the lower city and suffered moderate wounds. The assailant fled.

About an hour later, medics were called to treat another shooting victim, minibus driver Guy Kafri, on Arnon Street in the Hadar neighborhood. Paramedics failed to revive him.

Security forces raid homes in Haifa in search of the suspected gunman behind the shooting, January 4, 2017.
Gil Eliahu

The suspect’s father told Haaretz he believes his son is innocent, but was glad his son turned himself in safely. “I think he was afraid to come [surrender] because he heard they were looking for him for murder,” the father said.

The father also complained of abuse by the police. “They started telling me I’m a terrorist,” he said. “They shouted at me and cursed at me . I can’t fathom it when they say something like that. Inside my own home an investigator tells me I’m garbage. I almost cried.”

The police said they were pursuing several lines of inquiry. The Shin Bet is also investigating.

“After intelligence and operational action by the Israel Police and the Shin Bet, which led a focused chase after the murder suspect, and during which they captured his weapon, the suspect realized the police were closing in and decided to surrender,” the police said in a statement.

Attorney Rafat Assadi, who represents the family of the suspect, said he did not understand why the Shin Bet was involved and why the police believed that Illouz was targeted because of his position.

“I’m convinced that the truth will come to light, and the police will retract their false statements and claims that are completely unfounded,” Assadi said.

“We will continue to let the police do their work and investigate. As someone who has known this family for years, if I suspected that the motive was political, I would not have taken the case.”

Neighborhood residents said they did not believe that Illouz was targeted because of his position.

Hundreds of people attended Kafri’s funeral Thursday afternoon. “How do you explain to the children that their beloved uncle was murdered and died for nothing?” said Kafri’s brother-in-law, Shahar Dror, in a eulogy.  

“That he won’t bring them presents and balloons, that they will never see his smile again? He was the brother who took care that nothing bad would happen to Keren. He was beloved by his parents.”

Kafri’s mother Berta said after the funeral: “He was special, everyone loved him. He was happy with his work and he helped children with special needs. Their parents keep calling to say their children simply can’t stop crying ‘where is Guy, where is Guy?’”

His mother said he had an amazing sense of humor, but was also streetwise. “I spoke with him for the last time the evening before,” she said.

“His father spoke with him five minutes before he was murdered. He told him to go to the doctor because his throat hurt, but he never liked going to the doctor. He would rather go to work.”