Grieving family members of 16-year-old yeshiva student Yiftah Mor-Yosef, killed by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting in Ramle this month, came face-to-face with three young men arrested for the killing during a tense court remand hearing on Tuesday.
Ramle Magistrate Zakaria Yemini ruled that the suspects be kept in custody for a further eight days to allow police time complete the investigation. After reading a secret police report, Zakaria concluded that the suspicions against the suspects were "reasonable."
Defense attorneys for the three suspects claimed, however, that police relied on flimsy evidence to make the arrests. "The suspicions against my client are unfounded," attorney Shahar Hetsrony, who represents one of the suspects, said after the hearing.
A second lawyer, who represents another suspect, added, "I hope the investigation is completed swiftly, and that my client is found innocent."
Mor-Yosef was sitting on a public bench next to 36-year-old underworld figure Einav Cohen - the intended target - and sustained a gunshot wound to the head during the August 5 shooting.
Doctors at Assaf Harofeh Hospital in Tzrifin battled to save Yosef's life for several hours, but he succumbed to his wounds early the following morning.
Relatives of the victims, including Mor-Yosef's tearful mother, sat quietly and glanced at the three young men sitting a few meters away on the other side of the courtroom. The men smiled and winked at friends or family sitting in the court's public dock as they entered the courtroom. A court-imposed media gag order is in place prohibiting the publication of the identities of the suspects or of police findings from the investigation.
"This is a disaster for the country," said Anwar Marudi, a family friend who attended the court session. Marudi often called Mor-Yosef and asked him to attend prayers at the local synagogue to help complete a minyan. "He would come immediately. He was a saint," Marudi said, choking back tears. "I knew there was violence in Ramle but I never thought Yiftah would become a victim," he added.
Rabbi Michael Deri, another family friend, told reporters outside the courtroom that he was alarmed by what he said was the rapid moral deterioration of Israeli society.
"There are no values anymore. Abraham our forefather discovered these values 4,000 years ago. Without these, man will act as a beast," he said. "What kind of society are we becoming?" he asked. Deri called for an urgent reform of the education system. "We need to make sure that values are penetrating the minds of the youths. It's not a question of money. It's about Jewish values," he said.