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Rabin bodyguard questions lone gunman theory

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Rabin's Bodyguard Calls for New Inquiry
Ten Years After Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin's Assassination, His Top Bodyguard Calls for New Inquiry
By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press

JERUSALEM - Ten years after Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, the official responsible for his security at the time is calling for a new inquiry into intelligence and security failures leading up to the killing.

Dror Yitzhaki, who headed the Shin Bet internal security services' bodyguard unit at the time, brushed off conspiracy theories that assassin Yigal Amir was not the lone gunman. But his call for a new inquiry will almost certainly fuel far-right activists who have long called for another investigation.

Amir, an ultranationalist Jew who opposed Rabin's moves to exchange land for peace, fired the three shots that killed the Israeli leader on Nov. 4, 1995, after a peace rally in Tel Aviv.

Yitzhaki said in his first interview since the assassination that he took responsibility for the failure of Rabin's bodyguards to prevent the killing, including "the activity of the security guards who had been trained for years ... that the second bullet if not the first would be theirs."

The bodyguards did not fire a single shot, and Amir was arrested on the spot.

Five months before the killing, a sergeant from the army's intelligence unit overheard a conversation in a public restroom about a "little Yemenite guy" who had a handgun and had serious intentions to kill Rabin. But that information was never passed along, said Yitzhaki, who resigned after the assassination. Amir's family immigrated from Yemen.

"I received no intelligence except for general assessment paperwork," he added.

Because questions remain about the events leading up to the assassination, Yitzhaki said he wonders "whether there is room to set up another state inquiry to investigate the truth."

Amir was sentenced to life in prison and has become an icon for some hard-line Israelis who oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state on land Israel has occupied since the 1967 Mideast war.

Excerpts from Yitzhaki's interview were broadcast Thursday on Israel TV Channel Two. The full interview is to be broadcast later Friday, the 10th anniversary of Rabin's death.

On Friday, Rabin's family and friends from his Labor Party gathered at his graveside to light candles and remember the man who paid with his life for negotiating Israel's first deal with the Palestinians.

"What he started will never be forgotten and we shall continue to act in the same way until we shall achieve the most noble goal of our life, and that is peace among ourselves and our neighbors," said Shimon Peres, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Rabin and Yasser Arafat for carving out the 1993 interim peace accord.

Israelis no longer assume that only Arabs would be the perpetrators of an attack on their leader.

But footage broadcast for the first time Thursday on Channel Two is evidence of how deep misconceptions ran at the time of Rabin's assassination.

The footage from a training exercise conducted a year before the assassination showed Rabin himself driving a burgundy van when two truckloads of "Palestinians" with assault rifles ambushed the vehicle.

The disguised combatants from the Shin Bet security service could easily have assassinated the Israeli leader. But the training exercise never took into account that such an attack would come from an Israeli.

In the run-up to Israel's September withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was surrounded at times by three tight rings of security guards, even when walking through the corridors of parliament considered to be one of the most secure buildings in the country.

The assumption was that any attempt on his life would most likely come from Israel's ultranationalist wing, which strongly opposed the pullout.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

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