A man was critically injured Saturday when a car exploded in Ashkelon in what police suspect was the latest in a string of underworld assassination attempts.
The explosion took place on Eli Hacohen Street in the coastal city, not far from where where a car bomb killed one and injured another last Thursday.
The victim of the suspected car bomb was rushed to the local Barzilai Medical Center in critical condition with severe injuries to his lower torso. According to Israel Radio, the man’s legs were amputated.
A video uploaded to YouTube showed the car ablaze with emergency response crews at the scene.
Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino arrived at the crime scene and said it was “a grave incident” behind which stood organized crime.
“All signs and materials known to us point to a conflict between criminal groups,” Danino said, adding that the police consider the fight against organized crime as important as its war against terrorism.
Danino said the police would redouble their efforts to put those responsible behind bars.
The police opened an investigation into Saturday night’s incident.
Ashkelon resident Moshe Nisipour told Ynet that a woman and her children were next to the car when it exploded, but fortunately none of them were injured.
“It’s very scary. People are closing themselves up in their homes and are afraid to leave,” he said. “It’s unacceptable that an explosion like this, which is essentially like a terrorist attack, will talk place right next to children playing.”
“We don’t feel safe,” he continued, “we don’t know where the next explosion will come from; we’re living in uncertainty and it’s only a matter of time until a disaster happens and civilians are hurt.”
In a similar incident on October 24, a powerful car bomb shook buildings in Ashkelon in what police described as a criminal-related assassination attempt. Two men were seriously injured in that blast, and one later died of his wounds in hospital. 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 p.m. 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.
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.”