Police fear a war may be brewing in the underworld following a brazen midday car bombing in Ashkelon on Thursday that left one senior associate of reputed mobster Shalom Domrani dead and another gravely wounded.

The car bomb, which detonated not far from a high school, shook nearby buildings and sent shrapnel flying dozens of meters in all directions, leaving the car a flaming, scorched wreck.

“When we arrived we found the car in flames with thick plumes of smoke in the air,” Magen David Adom paramedic Zilber Maman said.

He added that the two men had been pulled out of the car by passersby, and that both were covered in soot and suffering from injuries related to the shock wave from the blast.

The men, both in their 40s, were then rushed from the scene to the city’s Barzilai Medical Center in serious condition, where one soon died.

Within hours of the bombing, police said that the case had been passed on to the Lahav 433 national investigative unit, which handles serious and organized crime.

It was expected that detectives would soon question Domrani.

The police have placed a gag order on the details of the case, including the identities of those involved.

Police have long considered Domrani a major target and one of the country’s top organized crime bosses. Initially based in southern Israel, his operations have spread nationwide. Over the past several years, he has frequently spent long periods abroad – particularly in Morocco – to avoid police investigations and feuds with rivals from the Abergil organization and the Jawrushi family based in Ramle.

In recent years, rivals have tried to kill Domrani and his associates several times, including one failed plot last year by two Ashdod-based rivals to fire a LAW anti-tank missile at his house in Moshav Otzem, in the Lachish region.

Thursday’s explosion was the third deadly underworld incident this week. On Saturday, an Ashdod man well known to police was shot and killed outside his house by a man who fled on a motorcycle, and on Monday, Itzik Kisus, a one-time top associate of mobster Ze’ev Rosenstein, was found shot to death in the parking garage of his apartment building in Or Yehuda.

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