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(photo credit: IDF)
The investigation into the apparent suicide of an American immigrant soldier in a West Bank mosque early Tuesday morning picked up speed on Wednesday with the Military Police saying it was investigating "every scenario," including the possibility that Yisrael Reinman, 28, initially entered the mosque not to commit suicide but to murder Palestinians.
"All possibilities are being investigated," a senior military source said. "We have yet to rule out any scenario."
The senior officer was careful not to associate Reinman with Baruch Goldstein, an American-born doctor from Kiryat Arba, who shot dead 29 Palestinian worshipers in the Machpela Cave in 1994, or Cpl. Eden Natan Zada (Tzuberi), who gunned down four Israeli Arabs in a Shfaram-bound bus last August.
But there are several unanswered questions that have led the Military Police to entertain the possibility that Reinman entered the mosque with murderous intent, such as: Why did he enter the mosque if all he wanted to do was commit suicide? Why didn't he just kill himself in his base? The army is also looking into why Reinman fired an entire magazine inside the mosque, causing extensive damage, before he apparently shot himself.
On Wednesday, Military Police investigators questioned Reinman's commanders in the Nahal Haredi battalion, a military framework that integrates combat service with religious elements, and into which Reinman enlisted a mere two weeks ago.
On Wednesday, Reinman was buried in Jerusalem in a civilian ceremony. While an autopsy was not conducted, high-ranking military officers claimed that the New York-born soldier had "definitely" committed suicide after he "flipped out" in the mosque and began firing in all directions. The possibility that Reinman went to the mosque to murder Palestinians, the officer said, seemed unlikely.
Reinman, the army said, began his recruitment process in the US but went through all of the various psychological examinations that all soldiers undergo prior to their induction. However, a source who knew Reinman said that he did not disclose to the IDF his history of psychological disturbances or that he was divorced.
The IDF claimed that there was no way for it to have known of his troubled past, which it said was confidential information. "Information about a recruit's psychological problems does not make its way to the military unless the soldier was hospitalized," said a senior officer in the IDF Human Resources Department.
The Military Police requested an autopsy to rule out the possibility that Reinman was killed by a ricochet during the shooting spree in the mosque, by Palestinian terrorists or by other soldiers. Investigators said that other soldiers besides Reinman had fired their guns and there was an outside possibility that they had mistakenly killed Reinman.
However, pressure from Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and other leading rabbis prevented an autopsy.
Haredi representatives, among them MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), who were involved in negotiations between rabbis and the IDF, warned that an autopsy would endanger the future of Nahal Haredi.
"If it were to become known that a Nahal Haredi soldier was autopsied, it would mean the demise of the Nahal Haredi," said a source close to the case.
Despite Military Police concerns, forensic evidence, including powder burns on Reinman's hands and face, seemed to clearly prove that he committed suicide.
Reinman comes from a respected haredi family in Flatbush, Brooklyn. His cousins, who live in Jerusalem and Shalabim, were involved with the autopsy negotiations and the burial arrangements.
The IDF, senior officers said, was afraid that the incident would turn off US nationals from making aliya and enlisting in the IDF.
"Suicide in the army is a painful phenomenon and is something we have been dealing with for a while," an officer said. "Each soldier who gets killed is one too many, and we are doing everything possible to give soldiers the support and help they need to prevent them from harming themselves."