Palestinians Charged With Taxi Driver's Murder

Two Palestinians were charged yesterday after confessing to the murder two months ago of an Israeli taxi driver. The suspects told investigators they perpetrated the murder to avenge the death of a relative killed by Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

The Shin Bet security services arrested the suspects on May 23, about two weeks after the body of Grigory Rabinovich was found near Gan Yavneh, south of Tel Aviv. A gag order on the case was lifted yesterday.

Mohammed Khaldi and Mohammed Odeh, both 22 and both residents of the northern West Bank village of Arana, were charged in Petah Tikva District Court with murder and aggravated robbery. A third suspect is still at large.

Police investigators initially believed that Rabinovich was killed in the course of a robbery, but the Shin Bet announced yesterday that Khaldi and Odeh told interrogators their crime was driven by nationalistic motives.

The suspects told investigators that although they entered Israel in order to commit a robbery, and did rob Rabinovich after getting into his taxi, it was only in the course of the robbery that they decided to kill him, in order to avenge the death of a relative of theirs, Mohammed Abu Rahim.

Abu Rahim, an Islamic Jihad militant, was killed in 2007 during an IDF arrest raid.

Neither suspect belongs to a known terrorist organization.

There has been a marked rise of violent attacks by West Bank Palestinians unaffiliated with terror groups over the last two years.

They reportedly got into Rabinovich's cab in Ashdod and asked to be taken to nearby Gan Yavneh where they directed the cab driver to a dirt road.

The suspects told investigators that they punched Rabinovich in the face and head at which point they put him in the trunk of his taxi.

They said that when he regained consciousness they decided to kill him, and strangled and beat him to death.