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2nd Settler Aided in Massacre, Soldiers Say : Israel: Two guards on duty say killer came with a different rifle. They also admit firing inside mosque.

March 18, 1994|MICHAEL PARKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

JERUSALEM — Two Israeli soldiers, who were on guard duty at the mosque where a Jewish settler massacred about 30 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank last month, testified Thursday that the killer came with a rifle, but another settler carried the gun actually used in the shooting.

The testimony before a special Israeli commission investigating the massacre threw into serious doubt the Israeli army's assertion that Baruch Goldstein, the Brooklyn-born physician from the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba, had acted alone.

The Israeli Army's investigation now appears to have been greatly rushed in concluding that the atrocity was, as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin put it, "the work of a single lunatic, a mad man," and not a crime planned and executed by several people, perhaps members of extremist Jewish groups.

The soldiers also acknowledged firing their own weapons inside the mosque at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, contradicting the army's assertions that they had only shot in the air outside the shrine.

Palestinians have repeatedly asserted that Goldstein was joined by other Israelis, assumed from their uniforms to be soldiers, in shooting the rows of kneeling men at morning prayers in the Ibrahim Mosque. So far, however, Palestinian witnesses have refused to testify before the Israeli commission, believing it biased.

The Israeli panel had already heard last week that:

* Goldstein had left a still-unpublished "letter of confession," indicating that it was a planned political attack.

* He had been driven to the shrine that morning by an unidentified man, suggesting an accomplice.

* The bag in which he carried more ammunition was found in a room where 13 Jewish settlers were praying at the time but, mysteriously, none saw him.

The testimony Thursday raised additional questions because it indicated, even more strongly, that Goldstein had at least one accomplice in the attack.

Previously, Israeli military authorities had insisted that Goldstein was armed with a Galil, an Israeli-made, full-sized assault rifle.

But Sgt. Kobi Yosef, one of the guards on duty, said Goldstein was carrying a standard, army-issue, U.S.-made M-16 rifle when he walked past him at 5:20 a.m. on Feb. 25. Five minutes later, Yosef continued, another man, also apparently a Jewish settler, entered the shrine with a Glilon, a compact Israeli-made rifle.

What was found next to Goldstein's body, however, and what had been used in the massacre--Israeli military authorities now say--was the Glilon, a smaller cousin of the Galil, modeled on the Soviet AK-47 and unmistakably different from an M-16.

Yosef's testimony, careful and unambiguous, stunned the five-member commission, which had been told by top Israeli generals as well as military investigators that all evidence showed Goldstein alone had fired upon the Muslim worshipers, firing 110 rounds from the Glilon and only from it. (The Galil and Glilon use the same ammunition.)

"Are you sure?" Chief Justice Meir Shamgar, the commission chairman, asked Yosef after nearly a minute of silence.

"Yes, as sure as I can be," replied Yosef, who as a member of an Israeli tank battalion carries a Glilon himself. "I saw (Goldstein) from a meter away."

Questioned closely about the man who had carried the Glilon, Yosef said he could not identify him. "I saw another settler, a Jew, at least, and I assume a settler, carrying a Glilon," Yosef said. "I never saw him before, and I have not seen him since. I don't know who he is.

"The Jews (who pray at the shrine), I know them all because I have been in the same place for four months, every morning at the same time," he added. "I know them all--they're regulars. I did not recognize that specific Jew."

Goldstein himself was beaten to death by worshipers inside the mosque after he had apparently fired more than three magazines at the 500 men and boys.

Sgt. Niv Drori, who was on duty with Yosef, testified that he too had seen Goldstein come with an M-16 and that another man came later with the Glilon. A third guard, Cpl. Erez Elimelech, also said Goldstein carried an M-16 when he entered.

Their platoon commander, 2nd Lt. Rotem Ravivi, testified that when he saw Goldstein a few minutes later, he was armed with the Glilon, not an M-16. The implication was that Goldstein and the unidentified settler had switched weapons inside the Cave of the Patriarchs.

"I saw him enter the place (where Jews were praying) carrying a Glilon," Ravivi said. "I saw no on else with a Glilon on that day."

Ravivi said he had spoken briefly with Goldstein, who was in uniform as an army reservist, asking whether he was on duty and being told yes. "I asked him how he was," Ravivi recounted. "The fact that he was in uniform caught my eye. I asked him if he was doing reserve service and he answered 'yes' and kept walking."

Ravivi said he had come to know Goldstein as an "OK guy" during the four months his tank unit had been on guard duty at the shrine.

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