Vehicle explosion in Givatayim.
(photo credit: ISRAEL ALMESI)
A car bomb that shook a quiet Givatayim neighborhood on Sunday morning left a well-known local criminal badly wounded, in what police are probing as a possible botched underworld hit.
The bomb was detonated around 11:30 a.m. on Hapalmah Street in Givatayim just as four men were about to enter the vehicle. Paramedics at the scene said they found three men in their 40s lying on the pavement suffering from shrapnel and shock wave wounds and evacuated them to area hospitals.
Tel Aviv police said, however, a fourth man was wounded by the blast – a reputed neighborhood criminal that police believe may have been the target of the blast. Police said Sunday afternoon that their initial investigation had not ruled out the possibility that the blast was a so-called “work accident,” and that the victims – who were outside the vehicle at the time – had been carrying the bomb when it exploded prematurely.
Whatever the background of the blast, neighbors on Hapalmah Street spoke of the wounded gangster as a beloved local boy who never caused any of them any problems, and even gave a helping hand when needed.
Local neighborhood gangster injured by car bomb in Tel Aviv suburb
“He’s a great guy; I lived in his building for three years. He was my landlord and never made any problems, I could always trust his word and he always helped out people who needed,” said one middle-age man waiting for the bomb squad to finish working on the crime scene and open the road back up to pedestrians.
The blast left the car a mangled shell of blackened metal on the side of a one-lane road meters away from family homes, a local park and day care centers. On the street and surrounding alleyways dozens of meters away, chunks of the car’s paneling and jagged pieces of glass could be seen in the yards of houses. One bystander said he was in his apartment a block away and the blast knocked him to the floor.
The car was parked outside a six-story building under construction that is owned by the probably target of the blast, and only a few doors down from a house he lives in with his wife and kids, as well as other properties he owns on the street.
Dorit, a long-time neighbor, said that her sons studied with him in school and that everyone has known him since he was a kid. She said there were rumors that he made his money from drugs, and everyone knew he was a criminal, but he never caused any problems. She did add that she was used to seeing his security guards patrolling the neighborhood as well as police detectives who kept a close eye on him.
“That’s no way to live, but that was his life,” she added.
The man is also well-known for a feud with one of the more dangerous and feared organized crime figures in central Israel. Rumor has it when the veteran gangster was in prison years earlier in the United States, the target of Sunday’s blast had an affair with his wife, though police said they haven’t ruled out other possible enemies who may have targeted him.
By mid-day bomb squad officers and their dogs were searching a three-story house ringed with security cameras, about 50 meters from the site of the blast. As the officers picked through the trunk of the man’s SUV and in the garbage cans and yard, his wife stood on an outside staircase with a look of distress on her face. Minutes later she left to open the gate to let in the couple’s young children, who cut through the swarm of photographers and into the family home.
Miri, the couple’s neighbor, said she was home when the blast happened, and she came outside to see the man’s wife running down the street towards the car, which was engulfed in flames, the street filled with black smoke. Minutes earlier he had left the house with his associates, Miri said, adding that bystanders managed to pull the four men out of the burning car after the blast.
Like the rest of the neighbors, she knew the target well, and described him as a neighborhood boy everyone had known for years. That said, she didn’t seem too dismissive of the risk.
“Of course it’s scary to live next to him, of course.”
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