Confessed assassin says he meant to cripple Rabin

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JERUSALEM — In a new twist in the investigation into Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, the student who confessed to the murder told investigators this week he only intended to cripple Rabin in an effort to remove him from the political arena.

Yigal Amir made the statement Tuesday during an interview conducted in his jail cell by two investigators who were gathering information for the Shamgar Commission, the state panel of inquiry into the Nov. 4 assassination.

"I am incapable of killing innocent people. My intention was not to kill" Rabin, Amir reportedly said.

"Paralyzing him also would have been good. That's why I did not shoot him in the head and aimed for the spine."

The 25-year-old law student also told the investigators that even on the night of the Nov. 4 peace rally in Tel Aviv, he had not known whether he would be able to carry out his plan to shoot Rabin.

Amir's trial on charges of slaying Rabin is scheduled to resume Jan. 23. He has not yet entered a plea to the charges against him.

Amir is also being tried along with his brother Hagai and friend Dror Adani on charges of conspiring to assassinate Rabin, of planning attacks against Arabs and of illegal possession of weapons.

At a hearing Monday in Tel Aviv, the three were formally charged.

The judges in the case postponed the date for that trial until April 17. The three defendants have until Feb. 26 to enter their pleas.

The judges also ordered that Hagai Amir and Adani be held in custody until the conclusion of the legal proceedings against them.

During Monday's hearing, the attorney for Hagai Amir charged that a well-known political activist in the territories had acted as a go-between for Yigal Amir to obtain rabbinic approval for the assassination.

The lawyer refused to name the alleged go-between. The judges dismissed the charge after reading the materials presented by the lawyer.

The Israeli media reported that the person was Benny Katzover, a leading activist in the Yesha Council, which represents Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Katzover strongly denied the claim, saying that he had met Yigal Amir a few times during protests in the territories, but that he had never been any kind of mediator.

Katzover said he was considering bringing a libel suit against Hagai Amir's attorney over the matter.

In another development, Internal Security Minister Moshe Shahal, in his first appearance before the Shamgar Commission, told the panel that police had no prior knowledge of any assassination plot by right-wing Jewish extremists.

He said that the police had received what was termed a "vague intelligence report" about the possibility that Jewish right-wing elements might try to attack government figures, but that there was no more specific information.

In the period since Rabin's assassination, police and domestic security service officials have traded accusations over who bore the blame for the security breakdown that made the prime minister's murder possible.

Carmi Gilon, the head of the Shin Bet, resigned last week over alleged security failures at the domestic intelligence agency.

On Sunday, the Cabinet confirmed the appointment of his successor, Rear Adm. Ami Ayalon, the outgoing commander of the navy.