Bomb goes off outside prison officer’s home amid intimidation campaign

Bomb goes off outside prison officer’s home amid intimidation campaign

Explosion seen as the latest incident in a spate of attacks by criminal organizations against prison officials

A car in flames outside the Elad home of an Israel Prisons Service intelligence officer believed targeted by criminal organizations, November 2018. (Israel Prisons Service)
A car in flames outside the Elad home of an Israel Prisons Service intelligence officer believed targeted by criminal organizations, November 2018. (Israel Prisons Service)

A bomb went off in a car parked outside the home of the top intelligence officer of Rimonim Prison, near his home in Elad early Thursday morning, amid ongoing efforts by criminals to intimidate Israel Prisons Service officers.

The vehicle, which belonged to one of the officer’s neighbors, burst into flames at approximately 3 a.m., waking up neighbors in the surrounding apartment buildings on Nissim Gaon Street in the city.

No one was hurt by the explosion, but two cars were badly damaged.

It is the second such attack at the officer’s home that is being attributed to criminal organizations. Another neighbor’s car was set on fire in the same location on November 26.

The officer, whose rank is chief superintendent, equivalent to a major in the military, is under special protection, so the criminal organizations were unable to place the bombs in his car, leading them to target his neighbors, officials said.

The past few months have seen multiple car bombs, shooting attacks and verbal threats leveled by criminal organizations against Prisons Service officers, in what police believe is a coordinated effort to intimidate and control them. Most of the threats emanate from organizations whose leaders are held at the Rimonim Prison Complex near Netanya and at Ayalon Prison in Lod.

Israeli Prisons Service officers stand at the entrance to Rimonim Prison, February 23, 2014. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

The Prisons Service has said the attacks are believed to involve more than one criminal organization.

After they began, the service scattered the currently imprisoned heads of criminal organizations in at least four different prisons, to make coordination among the groups more difficult.

Numerous officers in the service have been placed under special protection.

A Prisons Service camera system has recently been installed in the Elad officer’s apartment building, and police hope it could help them locate the perpetrators of the latest attack.

In early October, a bomb exploded inside a car belonging to the head of one of the wings of Rimonim Prison while it was parked near her home in Netanya. No one was hurt in the attack, but the car sustained heavy damage.

The officer targeted in the bombing oversees the section of the prison that houses the members of the criminal organization suspected in a separate drive-by shooting a week earlier toward the prison walls at Rimonim.

She has been placed under special protection as well.

Rimonim Prison. (CC BY-SA, Yaakov, Wikimedia Commons)

Many of the incidents have been linked by officials to Uda Kutayer, a resident of the Israeli Arab town of Jaljulia, northeast of Tel Aviv, currently in prison on murder charges, who is suspected of leading a violent criminal organization.

On November 24, two men, both in their 20s and residents of Jaljulia, were arrested at Ben Gurion Airport. The two were suspects in the shooting toward the Ayalon Prison in the central Israeli city of Lod two days earlier, and, at the request of Israeli police, were apprehended a day before in Romania after fleeing Israel.

A third suspect in the Ayalon Prison shooting, a 22-year-old from Jaljulia, was also arrested on November 24.

During the shooting incident, just after midnight, several bullets hit a guard post next to the headquarters of the prison. The post was manned, but no injuries were reported.

Police said that all those arrested in connection with the shooting were suspected members of the Jaljulia-based gang whose leader, Kutayer, officers say, acted because he was denied leave to attend the funeral for his brother.

A bullet hole in the guard post at Ayalon Prison in Lod that was targeted by a criminal organization in November 2018. (Israel Prisons Service)

The Ayalon shooting was the fourth such incident since August.

The shootings, officials said, were seen as a “warning” to Prisons Service officials who have been clamping down on the activities of criminal organizations inside the prison in recent months.

The more recent incidents are suspected to be part of the same campaign against prison officials.

The crime organizations believed to be responsible for the attacks had “crossed all red lines,” officials said last month.

“Our assessment is that this is the work of criminal organizations we are operating against, that have abandoned any restraints they had and are willing to occasionally carry out serious attacks, including shootings toward prison walls and verbal and other threats against officers and jailers in the Prisons Service, in a bid to control them through intimidation,” the Prisons Service said.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who oversees the police and prisons service, has ordered the two services to prioritize their handling of the attacks on officers and installations.

“The attacks on the prisons show the distress of the criminal organizations involved, whose leaders are in jail and have been indicted,” Erdan said. “Not only will the attacks of the members of the organizations not deter us, but they will lead to greater determination by law enforcement to bring the parties to justice.”

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