A well-known Pardes Katz criminal was hired to bomb the Tiv Taam supermarket on Ibn Gvirol in Tel Aviv in April, as part of a business dispute a rival had with the store owner, police said Tuesday.
The man is the fourth suspect arrested in the series of attacks this spring on the central Tel Aviv branch of the supermarket chain. The other tree suspects were arrested earlier this week and at the beginning of July, and are suspected of playing various roles in the two arsons at the store in March this year and in 2012, which were followed by the attempted bombing of the branch in April.
The suspect arrested on Monday night, whose identity is still under a gag order, was the leader of a gang that ran Pardes Katz in the 90s, and was also arrested in 2011 for plotting the shooting attack in which Bar Noar suspect Hagai Felician and his brother, Avi Ruhan associate Yaakov Felician were injured.
Long known for being open on Shabbat and for being a pioneer in the sale of pork and other non-kosher items, Tiv Taam has long drawn the ire of observant Jews, and after the attacks suspicion was raised that possibly ther3 was a religious motivation to the attacks. Police said in court on Tuesday that they ruled out the religious motive very early, in that each branch of Tiv Taam is a privately-owned franchise and that only the Ibn Gvirol branch was attacked.
Attorney Sassi Getz said of his client’s arrest, that “this is yet another false arrest against my client, again the police arrest first and investigate later. The only thing this arrest will do is make headlines.”
He added that his client “has left the life of crime and become religiously observant, he’s left this life behind.”
When asked if his client had any motive to attack Tiv Taam he said “he had no taam [desire] to try and hurt Tiv Taam.”
The attempted bombing in April nearly ended in catastrophe, when the bomb was noticed by chance by an employee performing renovations on the business. Police sappers cordoned off a wide span of central Tel Aviv stretching for several blocks in each direction and neutralized the bomb, taking shreds of it for forensic exams, where they were able to match a fingerprint on the device to one of the suspects arrested earlier this month.
Tow of the suspects, 26-year-old Eliran Vaknin of Hadera and Efraim Jerbi, 28, of Kfar Yonah, were brought to the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on Sunday night where their remands were extended until Thursday.
All four suspects in the case could potentially face charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, illegal possession of firearms and illegal use of an explosive device.
In the same courtroom a few hours earlier, six men from Tel Aviv and Bat Yam were brought for a remand extension following their arrests for allegedly running a loan sharking ring.
According to police, the six men beat and threatened every day people swimming in debt, turning small black market loans into tens of thousands of shekels in profit for their crew.
The suspects, all men in their late twenties and early thirties from Tel Aviv and Bat Yam, were reportedly recorded threatening and on a number occasions physically residents of the Tel Aviv area who owed them money. Tel Aviv police said that many of the victims included people who were not able to take out legal bank loans and instead had to turn to the so-called “gray market”.
The six suspects face charges of extortion through violence, conspiracy, and assault during the commission of a crime, among other charges.
On Tuesday afternoon, the men were brought to the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court where they were met by supporters, a group of around 15 men, all of them heavyset and sporting almost identical black velvet kippas. After the six men's attorneys made their cases, the court extended the remand of the first suspect by eight days and that of the rest by six.