Two young men remanded for allegedly assaulting cabbie

Taxi driver Ya'acov Mizrahi, 72, lay recuperating in a hospital on Wednesday after a robbery attempt that cost him an eye - and nearly his life - while two young men accused of carrying out the brutal attack were remanded in custody. Ofir Pinko, 19, and Gera Masimaoun, 21, are suspected of planning the Monday night robbery near Kibbutz Palmahim, in which Mizrahi was beaten, strangled, stabbed in the eye with a screwdriver and then left for dead by the side of an isolated road as his assailants sped off in his taxi, together with his hard-earned money. Channel 2 reported on Wednesday night that, ironically, Pinko's mother was also a taxi driver. The suspects' remands were extended on Wednesday by eight and nine days, and police said they hoped the ongoing investigation would lead to a "very strong indictment" against the two. Police said that Pinko and Masimaoun had admitted under questioning that they had planned to target an elderly cab driver, assuming that an older person would be less likely to fight back. Instead, Mizrahi resisted - and suffered the consequences. It was sheer luck that a passer-by on the dark road noticed Mizrahi's body lying on the side of the road late Monday night and called for help. The father of four and grandfather of 10 was rushed to Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, but doctors were unable to save the eye, which had been pulled out of its socket by the force of the attack. Mizrahi, still hospitalized but now in stable condition, said that he had responded to a call in Rehovot, where he picked up two young men who fit the suspects' general description. The passengers, who he said had been acting normally, requested that he drive them to Palmahim Beach. It was not far from their destination that the two attacked, he said. The attorneys representing Pinko and Masimaoun, however, offered different accounts during their clients' remand-extension hearings Wednesday. Liran Friedland, the attorney representing Pinko, claimed that her client was "a son of a very well-established family in Rehovot." She denied Pinko's involvement in the robbery. "He was traveling with his friend to innocent 'entertainment,' when suddenly, his friend pulled out a screwdriver and began to attack the taxi driver," she said. Friedland argued that her client had had no inkling of Masimaoun's intentions and that he was in shock. In contrast, Avi Cohen, Masimaoun's attorney, claimed exactly the opposite - that it was his client who had been the innocent bystander, and Pinko the attacker. Cohen said Masimaoun was interested in undergoing a polygraph examination to prove that his version was the true one.