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18 buses torched in Safed; police probe possible link to protection racket payments

Vehicles belong to companies owned by Nazareth’s Afifi transport company; no casualties in arson attack at central bus station; panicked residents woken by blasts

Burning buses at Safed central bus station, June 11, 2022. (Israel Fire and Rescue Services)
Burning buses at Safed central bus station, June 11, 2022. (Israel Fire and Rescue Services)

Eighteen buses were destroyed when they were torched in the early hours of Saturday morning in the northern city of Safed, in a suspected attack linked to criminal demands for the payment of protection money.

A number of other vehicles were damaged in the attack at the central bus station. There were no injuries.

Sixteen of the buses belonged to the Afifi transportation company based in Nazareth. The other two destroyed vehicles belonged to Netiv Express, which is part of the same group.

Firefighters were called to the scene shortly after 3 a.m., where they found a number of vehicles alight, with many others threatened by the flames.

Emergency services worked to protect the nearby undamaged buses while extinguishing the blaze.

Residents told the Walla news site they were woken by the sound of explosions and immediately panicked that it was a rocket attack.

“We thought it was Katyushas,” an unnamed person told the site.

Police were investigating if the arson attack was linked to a similar incident in the northern town of Kiryat Shmona last month.

There has been a surge in activity linked to organized crime in recent years.

One element of that is powerful protection rackets which lend money and collect payments at gunpoint, with sometimes deadly consequences for those who don’t comply.

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