Crime scene [illustrative].
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Machine gun and pistol shots rang out in Jaffa’s Alef neighborhood on the night of May 28 last year and Jihad Hamad never had a chance.
Hamad was riddled with bullets in an elaborate underworld hit that used three vehicles and a tracking device, for his alleged role in a brazen drive-by shooting that shocked the city months earlier.
On Sunday, six defendants were indicted for the murder, which is believed to be part of a vendetta between the rival Hamad and Ayash crime families that has seen a series of murders across Jaffa over the past several years.
The killers ambushed Hamad on Ed Koch Street in Jaffa to avenge the death of 27-year-old Taher Lele, who was gunned down in his car on the Tel Aviv seafront on February 15, 2104. Lele, reputedly an enforcer for the Ayash family, was stuck in traffic in his BMW sedan when masked gunmen pulled over and unloaded their pistols into the driver’s-side window, killing Lele at the scene. The getaway car was later found ablaze in Jaffa.
The shooting of Lele took place on a Saturday afternoon, when the beachfront is packed with weekend visitors, including hundreds who were attending a chocolate festival at the “Tahana” shopping center nearby.
The brazen nature of the killing made it front page news and brought serious pressure on police, who in the days to follow sent heavy reinforcements to Jaffa to stave off further bloodshed.
The day after the murder, Hamad and another suspect were arrested on suspicion of killing Lele, but were released days later. A day after Hamad’s arrest, police stopped three relatives of Lele’s who they say were part of a “hit team” that was en route to avenge Lele’s death. They had a loaded pistol in their car when they were stopped in Jaffa.
The indictment states that Abed Ayash, a member of the Ayash family and a friend of Lele, hatched a plot to kill Hamad, and devised an elaborate plot to snare and murder him.
Ayash decided he would use a GPS to track Lele’s car, and they would then use three vehicles to carry out a drive-by shooting. The first vehicle would pull in front of Hamad and block him in, while the killers would jump out of a second car and shoot Hamad, before torching the car and fleeing in a third car.
In May 2015, Ayash contacted co-defendant Muhammad Atrash, who lived across from Hamad in Jaffa and asked him to affix a GPS to his vehicle. On May 15, Atrash allegedly set the device, and the plan was put in to motion.
Almost two weeks later, Hamad was driving with an acquaintance in Jaffa, while the hit team sat in three cars nearby, tracking him with the GPS. At 6:19 p.m., Hamad pulled onto Ed Koch Street in Jaffa and was blocked at a stop light by the first vehicle, as the second car collided with him from behind and masked gunmen got out and sprayed bullets into the car, badly hurting Hamad and wounding his associate.
Hamad then fled on foot, and the hit team gave chase in their vehicles, finally cornering him on a street nearby. The gunmen got out and fired dozens of rounds at Hamad from a pistol and a submachine gun, and then tossed their firearms into the second car, which they set on fire before fleeing in the third vehicle as the blocking car followed behind.
Other than Ayash, the defendants were named as Abed Mahajna, 46, Ali Hamad, 37, Khalil Asfur, 28, and Khaled Zaynev, 34, all of whom were charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The sixth suspect, 27-year-old Atrash, is charged with manslaughter, conspiracy, and causing grave bodily harm for his role in placing the GPS and helping with the conspiracy.
Less than a month after Hamad’s murder, a booby-trapped car exploded in Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood, killing a man who was said to be an associate of the Hamad family. That explosion came less than a week after an associate of the Ayash crime family was shot dead not far away in Jaffa.