By YAAKOV LAPPIN
Two months after a 17-year-old bystander was gunned down by an assassin's stray bullet in Ramle, police lifted a media gag order on Wednesday, revealing that the intended target, a local crime figure who was wounded in the attack, had whispered the name of the gunman to police just before slipping into a coma.
On the night of August 5, Yiftah Mor-Yosef, a yeshiva student, sat on a bench next to Einav Cohen, a local alleged drug runner, when bullets fired from a motorcycle suddenly started flying in their direction.
Mor-Yosef was struck in the head and suffered major blood loss. Despite the best efforts of doctors at Tzrifin's Assaf Harofeh Hospital and the tearful prayers of his family, Mor-Yosef succumbed to his wounds hours after being shot.
In the same hospital, Cohen, 36, was saved by doctors who worked to stabilize him following a gunshot wound to his torso.
Detectives gathered at his bedside as he lost consciousness, hoping for a snippet of information that could lead to an arrest. Cohen did not disappoint them, uttering the first name of the suspected assassin, "Nir," before losing consciousness.
Police immediately understood that he was referring to 24-year-old Nir Haziza, another local underworld figure. A subsequent investigation by the Central District's Central Unit found that Haziza had had fallen out with Cohen over a NIS 80,000 debt.
The evidence was submitted to the Ramle Magistrate's Court in a secret report, and police said Cohen's words formed valuable evidence.
The evidence was enough to arrest Haziza, which police did within a week after the shooting, but doubts were raised over whether there was sufficient evidence for a prosecution.
Just as police appeared to hit a dead end, Cohen unexpectedly woke up.
Doctors at Assaf Harofeh quickly phoned the police, and detectives wasted little time in gathering, once again, around Cohen's bedside.
A detective placed a pen and a pad of paper in front of Cohen, who wrote down the full name of the alleged assassin.
"With a shaky hand, he wrote the name 'Nir Haziza,'" said Dep.-Cmdr. Avi Noiman, head of the Central Unit. "That's enough to write up an indictment."
As Cohen's condition improved, he regained his ability to speak and provided a full account to police.
Haziza and two other suspects appeared before the Ramle Magistrate's Court on Wednesday morning for the latest of several arraignment hearings. Haziza's remand was extended by five more days.
The suspects appeared oblivious to the gravity of the situation, smiling and winking at friends or family sitting in the court.
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