The low cost and easy availability of explosives have made them a favored weapon for Israeli criminals, Asst.-Ch. Meni Yitzhaki, head of the Israel Police Investigations and Intelligence Branch, said on Tuesday.
Criminals have also learned that it is far harder for police to catch the perpetrators of mafia bombings than of shootings, he said.
Speaking to a Knesset Interior Committee meeting held in the wake of a string of car bombings linked to criminal gangs in cities, Yitzhaki said, “The bombs are available on the market, their price has dropped, and criminals see them as a comfortable, cheap tool that doesn’t require a confrontation with the criminal they are feuding with.”
While he does not want to belittle the phenomenon and the recent spate of attacks, police figures do not indicate a statistical increase in the annual use of explosives, Yitzhaki said. He added that police have prevented dozens of such bombings.
Echoing Israel Police Insp.- Gen. Yohanan Danino’s words earlier this week, Yitzhaki said that most of the explosives police seize are ready-to-use factory made, and are not homemade improvised bombs, meaning that the source for most of them is the IDF.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office said on Tuesday that the army is well aware of the phenomenon of theft from weapons depots and bases, and is doing what it can in collaboration with the Israel Police and through undercover Military Police investigations.
“We are an army of the people and draft people from all over the country. Therefore we don’t know if some of these are or will be connected to organized crime at some point. There are people who serve in Combat Engineering and then later in life join the criminal world, we don’t know this beforehand,” the office said.
Police have long called for greater cooperation with the IDF in fighting the proliferation of explosives and firearms and ammunition in the civilian realm.
In a number of recent incidents, including the attempted bombings of the Tiv Ta’am grocery store branch on Ibn Gvirol Street in Tel Aviv last year, the explosives used were high-grade military-issue bombs normally used by elite IDF units, according to police sources.
While in years past car bombs were used to target major crime figures, over the past couple of weeks, a number of blasts targeted men who were not considered major police investigative targets.
A Central District police source said this includes the two men killed in the explosion last week in Petah Tikva, who were “not among the top 30, even top 50 police targets in the city,” and a man killed in south Tel Aviv on Saturday night, who one high-ranking officer said had moved to the North and was visiting family in Tel Aviv, but was not on the police radar or considered a major person of interest.
According to police, the increasing popularity and easy availability of bombs means they are no longer reserved for use in feuds between major crime figures, and have become more of an “equal opportunity” weapon.
Also during the committee meeting on Tuesday, committee head Miri Regev said that Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has asked the attorney-general to allow the use of administrative detention to stop criminal bosses. Such detentions allow the holding of people without charge, and have so far only been used against security suspects.