Eight arrests were made late Friday in the wake of the assassination Thursday of a senior member of the Domrani crime family in Ashkelon.
Leading figures in the Israeli criminal underworld, all said to be close to mob boss Shalom Domrani, were said to have been arrested to prevent them from disrupting the police investigation of the hit.
Some of the suspects were released after being questioned, but police were expected to ask the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court to remand several others on Saturday night.
On Friday, Chief of Israel Police Yohanan Danino convened a status meeting with the heads of various police and intelligence units.
The purpose of the meeting, according to reports, was to assess the situation regarding the current rise in organized crime hits and activities across the country. The police believe the assassination will be met with a spate of revenge attacks, which may instigate a series of attempted killings and bombings among organized crime families.
On Thursday afternoon, a powerful car bomb shook buildings in the coastal city of Ashkelon, in what police describe as a criminal-related assassination attempt. Two men were seriously injured in the blast, and one later died of his wounds while hospitalized. The deceased was identified as Avi Bitton, an associate of the Domrani crime family, headed by Shalom Domrani.
The explosion struck a private vehicle while it was in motion at around 3 pm, Thursday near the intersections of Zionism and Montifiore streets in central Ashkelon, close to a school. The two victims, both in their 40s, were severely burned and suffered internal injuries. They were evacuated to Barzilai Hospital, where Bitton later succumbed to his injuries while the other remained in critical condition.
The blast rattled the surrounding neighborhood. One witness told Ynet news he initially thought it was a suicide bombing or rocket attack and that “the buildings were shaking.”
Police said the investigation into the killing will be handled by the recently established Lahav 433 unit — the organized crime-fighting body also known as the ‘Israeli FBI.’ The unit was created by Danino earlier this year to deal specifically with organized crime activities, including several high-profile killings just this year.
In July, two people were killed after their car exploded when they were driving on Highway 5 near Petah Tikva in a suspected hit connected with the criminal underworld.
In February, there was a surge in attempted murders of leading figures in Israel’s organized crime scene, especially in Rishon Lezion. Two people were killed when a car exploded in Rishon Lezion in late February.
Two weeks earlier, a car exploded in southern Tel Aviv, injuring two people, in what police suspect was a criminal underworld attack. Two brothers were wounded, both of whom had criminal records.