Police in the Tel Aviv area are bracing for a surge in violence between rival organized crime groups following a Saturday night shooting that killed the son of a top crime boss.
Shai Shirazi, 30, was mortally wounded in the shooting attack on Moshe Sneh Street in northern Tel Aviv.
Unidentified assailants pulled up to the victim’s Mazda 3 at a red light and fired a large number of rounds into the vehicle. A second passenger, 45, was lightly wounded.
Both men were taken to the nearby Ichilov hospital, where Shirazi was pronounced dead.
The assailants fled the scene. Police scrambled to close Moshe Sneh Street and deployed roadblocks around the city, especially along likely escape routes toward Highway 5 and the city’s northern exits.
Shirazi, known for links to the underworld, was the son of Rico Shirazi, a purported crime kingpin in the Sharon area.
Police only released Shirazi’s name for publication on Sunday morning.
Officials described the incident as an apparent ambush by one criminal gang against another. The shooters are believed to have called the deceased man and asked to meet, luring him into the trap.
Police have raised the level of alert in the Tel Aviv region, while national Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich has promised to bolster the manpower available to the Tel Aviv police to help prevent an escalation in violence between criminal organizations.
“We’re expecting bloodshed,” one senior officer in the Tel Aviv police was quoted as telling the Walla news site. “We will have to stretch our forces.”
Police have waged a massive campaign over recent years to crack down on organized crime, after a wave of gangland car bombings and other assassination attempts brought the issue to the fore in 2013 and 2014.
Rico Shirazi was a central figure in so-called case 512, a massive police investigation into several crime families that brought a wave of arrests last year, including Shirazi and other underworld crime heads.
Last year, state prosecutors indicted Shirazi for his involvement in the murder of Guy Yehezkel and the attempted murder of Asi Abutbul, amid a fierce power struggle for control of Israel’s criminal underworld several years ago.
Prosecutors said Shirazi, along with Asaf Yariv, paid a hitman $50,000 in 2003 to kill Yehezkel, a known associate of Abutbul, his archrival.
A year later, Shirazi offered the hitman $500,000 to kill Abutbul. The hitman threw a grenade into Abutbul’s car in Prague, but he survived the assassination attempt.
Abutbul is currently serving out a 13-year prison sentence for extortion and money laundering. Police have also linked him to the disappearance and possible murder of four people between 2000 and 2002, but has not been charged for those crimes.
In December, Shirazi was sentenced by the Tel Aviv District Court to eight years in prison for fraud, money laundering and tax evasion for some NIS 22 million ($6 million) in income.
A state witness who testified against Shirazi detailed how the notorious crime boss used various shell companies to hide his income from authorities. The unnamed witness, who was a former associate of Shirazi’s, said the two would use fake invoices to more easily move money around and avoid paying taxes.
In addition to the tax crimes, Shirazi was convicted of conspiracy, falsifying official documents and records, and obstruction of justice. The court dropped the charge of making threats due to lack of evidence.