Crime scene [illustrative].
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The brother of a top organized crime figure in southern Israel was gunned down early Saturday morning while sitting in his car near Kiryat Gat, sparking fears of renewed underworld violence in the South.
Victim Shalom Shlomo, 40, was the older brother of Benny Shlomo, who runs a criminal organization based in southern Israel from their family compound on Moshav Heletz. Shalom was also heavily involved in the organization, though Benny is considered the brains behind the operation.
Shlomo’s driver was lightly wounded in the attack, and is not believed to have been the target.
Both brothers are known throughout Israel for a war they and their allies have waged in recent years against southern mob boss Shalom Domrani and his allies in central Israel, including the Lavi brothers.
That feud saw a series of car bombings and shootings in the South, especially Ashkelon, in late 2013 and the following months that put the spotlight on underworld violence in Israel.
Benny Shlomo was himself a top lieutenant of Domrani’s until he left a few years ago to start his own organization, sparking a blood feud with his former boss.
Police received a call about the shooting about 1 a.m. Saturday and took both men to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, where Shlomo was pronounced dead.
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Once police realized the identity of the two men, the case was handed over to the Lahav 433 economic crimes unit of the Israel Police, which is responsible for investigating the organization to which the two men belong, as well as Domrani’s organization.
Shalom Shlomo was a suspect in a number of attempted murders that have been part of the feud and has been questioned and released by police on a number of occasions in recent years, though no allegations against him have stuck.
The bombings in the Domrani- Shlomo feud have typically taken place in residential neighborhoods in southern cities, most notably one on October 24, 2013 in Ashkelon, that targeted a top Domrani associate named Avi Biton.
A bomb blew off one of Biton’s legs and left him critically injured, while killing associate Jacky Benita. The next month, also in Ashkelon, another Domrani associate was critically wounded by a bomb placed in his car.
After the October bombing, police arrested a series of Domrani associates in an effort to prevent a reprisal attack on the streets of southern Israel, a method they may use against Shlomo’s associates following Saturday morning’s murder.
In January, Domrani was released from Ramon Prison after serving 15 months for tampering in the Netivot municipal election. Domrani’s release came the same month that Benny Shlomo was released after a year-long sentence for extortion.
Since then, police have feared that with both crime bosses on the street it would be only a matter of time until a new underworld war broke out in the South, and in the months since there have been a series of attempted murders and shootings believed linked to the feud.
With the murder of Shalom Shlomo Friday night, police now will have to work overtime to prevent a reprisal attack and further acts of violence that could harm innocent civilians, as well as reputed criminals.
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