Jewish Settler Accused of Helping Suicide Bomber
Jan 12, 8:01 am ET
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has arrested a Jewish settler accused of unwittingly driving a Palestinian suicide bomber to his destination to carry out an attack that killed four Israelis on Christmas Day, officials said Monday.
Israeli authorities named the man as Ofer Shwartzbaum, a 39-year-old taxi driver from the West Bank settlement of Oranit.
Shwartzbaum's lawyer, Zion Amir, called the charge of "aiding manslaughter" being brought against his client "arrogant and overdramatic" and accused the state attorney's office of acting irrationally.
Shwartzbaum told interrogators he picked up two Palestinians in the Israeli town of Kafr Qassam believing they were laborers working illegally in the Jewish state, Israeli authorities said.
The settler dropped the men off at a junction near Tel Aviv and shortly afterwards heard that a suicide bomber had struck the area, the prime minister's office said in a statement.
He told investigators for Israel's Shin Bet security service he initially thought his passengers might have been involved but then dismissed his suspicion and never reported it to authorities, the statement said.
"Regretfully and to great tragedy, he drove the terrorist and what happened, happened," said his lawyer, who noted his client routinely drove Palestinians. "Without a doubt, he didn't know they were terrorists."
It was unclear how and where the bomber and his alleged accomplice crossed into Israel, avoiding a vast separation barrier Israel is building in the West Bank.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the bombing on Dec. 25, saying it was to avenge the killing of several of its members in an army raid on the West Bank city of Nablus.