A 72-year-old resident of Holon was killed early Thursday while riding a scooter when he was rammed by a fleeing car thief, the Israel Police said Thursday.
The victim was identified in Hebrew media as Herzl Bostanai, who had run a prominent youth soccer club and a restaurant in the Tel Aviv suburb for over 20 years.
The driver of the car, believed by police to be part of a gang of car thieves operating in the area, fled the scene, the force said in a statement. However, two other suspected members of the gang — a resident of the West Bank town of Qalandiya, 38, and a resident of the northern Arab town of Umm Al-Fahm, 33 — were arrested and taken in for questioning.
Holon police were engaged in an operation against the gang of suspected car thieves when they received an alert of a stolen vehicle near the city’s Israel Galili Street, the statement said. Officers blocked the road and a suspect driving the vehicle rammed into a police patrol car. Police opened fire at the suspect, who managed to continue on to Hahistadrut Street, where he hit the scooter rider, crushing him against a parked vehicle. The driver then fled the scene.
Medics who arrived were unable to save Bostanai and declared him dead, police said.
According to Hebrew media reports, the fleeing vehicle was traveling against the direction of traffic on the wrong side of the road.
Officers stopped another car that they suspected was also being used by the gang, and arrested the two men.
A woman who was sitting in the parked car that was hit told Channel 12 news: “It all happened so fast, I still can’t absorb it.”
The owner of the stolen car told the network he had parked his car outside his apartment building, and less than an hour later it had been stolen.
“I went out onto the balcony, I looked at the parking lot and there was no car,” he said. The man added that his son had called him to say he heard gunshots — apparently the ones police had fired at the suspect.
“It is very hard,” Bostanai’s son Nati told the Walla news site. He said he had been driving home from Jerusalem with his children when he began to get phone calls.
“The initial feeling was of anger. I couldn’t cry, nothing,” he said.
Bostanai set up the Otzma Holon youth soccer club at the end of the 1990s and was chairman of the locally beloved team ever since. He was also the owner of the Fantom restaurant, which was frequented by local soccer players.
“How sad, it is hard to digest. Legendary Herzl is no longer,” said Ziv Caveda, a former soccer player for Hapoel Tzafririm Holon, according to the Ynet news site.