2 killed, 4 injured in two shootings within an hour as deadly crime wave continues

One victim, 16, apparently wasn’t the target of suspected organized crime hit on Route 65; father and son who were with him had been warned by police they were being hunted

A car in which one person was killed and another three seriously injured in a suspected organized crime hit on Route 65, August 16, 2023. (Israel Police)
A car in which one person was killed and another three seriously injured in a suspected organized crime hit on Route 65, August 16, 2023. (Israel Police)

Two shootings within an hour of each other claimed the lives of two people and left another four with serious and moderate injuries on Wednesday.

Israel Police believe both incidents were tied to organized crime.

The first incident took place on Route 65 near the northern Kibbutz Gan Shmuel. There, a gunman riding a motorcycle pulled up alongside a car with four people inside as it approached a traffic light and opened fire, hitting all of the occupants.

A medic from the United Hatzalah emergency service happened to be driving next to the car and alerted authorities of the shooting.

Medics were forced to declare the death of a 16-year-old boy at the scene. The three seriously injured men were rushed to the Hillel Yaffa Hospital in Hadera, and police guards were placed outside of their hospital rooms, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The apparent targets of the attack were a father and son who were among the three injured. The Ynet outlet cited unnamed police sources identifying them as Avi Biton, 51, and his son Yarin, 27. Both Bitans served time in prison for a murder and are figures known to police. The third person in the car was an 18-year-old, and he was not the target of the hit; nor was the 16-year-old boy killed who was not immediately identified.

All four are reportedly residents of Or Akiva near Haifa. The Walla outlet reported that the Bitans were recently warned by police that they had become the targets of an organized crime hit. According to the report, one of the Bitans survived another assassination attempt a few weeks ago.

Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai who arrived at the scene of the shooting said all four of those hit by bullets were known to the force, but he did not name any of them. He noted that two of those in the car — apparently the Bitans — were released from prison about a year ago and confirmed that there had been a previous attempt on the lives of some of those in the vehicle.

Video shared on social media from the dashboard camera of another vehicle captured the moment when the gunman rode up to the targeted car and opened fire, even though there were several other vehicles in the area. The targeted car can be seen trying to evade the gunfire by switching lanes before quickly coming to a halt, as the gunman rides away.

Less than an hour earlier, a 21-year-old Petah Tikva resident was shot dead in the central Arab town of Jaljulia. A resident of Jaljulia, 15, who was with him was also struck and suffered moderate wounds.

The older man was taken to Belinson Hospital where he was declared dead. The teen was taken to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba.

The pair were in a car pulling out of a parking spot when another vehicle arrived and assailants opened fire on them, reports said. They both exited the vehicle in an effort to escape but were gunned down as they fled.

Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai, right, at the scene of a suspected organized crime shooting on Route 65, August 16, 2023. (Israel Police)

The man who died is also known to police, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

A wave of violent crime has swept the country since the beginning of the year amid feuding between organized crime groups and that has taken a particularly deadly toll on the Arab community.

Early Wednesday a 50-year-old man was shot dead at the entrance to his home in Jisr az-Zarqa, the 146th homicide this year in the Arab community.

According to the Abraham Initiatives, an anti-violence watchdog, Jarban was the 146th member of Israel’s Arab community to have been killed in a homicide since the start of 2023, more than double the toll at this time last year.

Members of the previous unity coalition — which included an Arab party for the first time in Israeli history — argue that measures they took to address root causes of the endemic led to a rare, albeit marginal, drop in killings.

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