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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sixty-five policemen have been threatened by underworld figures, about half of them in Nahariya, where four policemen were convicted in July of taking vigilante action against the town's crime boss, Michael Mor, one of the convicted policemen told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
The police force had also recently established a special unit to teach policemen who have been threatened how to protect themselves, said First-Sergeant Major Eldad Hadad.
"This help was not available before the incident that we were involved in," said Hadad. "The senior police officers themselves admit that they did not know what to do about the threats against us."
On October 10, 2006, a grenade was thrown at Hadad's home. On the same night, two grenades were thrown at the home of Nahariya mayor Jacky Sabagh. The city immediately assigned two bodyguards to protect the mayor and set up a guard station outside his home.
According to Hadad, the morning after the grenade was thrown at his house, his commanders told him to come into work. "It will take your mind off what happened," they explained.
And that was that, until 12 days later when Hadad and four other policemen, Chief-Supt. Yaniv Ashur, Advanced First-Sgt. Yossi Levy, Advanced-First Sgt. Rami Moussa and Menahem Ohana, planted bombs under Mor's car and on the window sill of another criminal, Rafi Ben-Shalom.
Ohana turned state's witness and told the police about the plot. On July 13, the other four were convicted of illegally manufacturing a weapon, illegal possession of a weapon, causing damage by explosives and fraud, and breach of faith. They are due to be sentenced on September 13.
Haifa District Court judges Yosef Elron, Kamal Saab and Rivka Lemelshrich did not lay all the blame on the policemen for the crime. They determined that the breakdown of law and order in Nahariya was a systemic failure.
According to Hadad, hand grenades have been thrown at seven policemen in Nahariya and dozens more at civilians. The most senior officers in Nahariya have been threatened by criminals, he said. A few policemen and civilians have been injured in the grenade incidents.
Hadad told the Post he believed the desperate actions he and his fellow officers took caused someone to "wake up" in the top echelons of the force and establish the unit to help threatened policemen. Since the names of the policemen were published, they have had police guards posted at their doors.
The events of the past weekend and particularly the brutal murder of Arik Karp have once again focused attention on what appears to be the helplessness of the police to prevent crime and even, in some cases, to protect themselves.
According to Hadad, some Nahariya policemen are so intimidated that they don't want to tangle with the criminals. "Many police shut their eyes and pretend they don't see criminal acts," he said. "Some will ride right by in their patrol cars if they see someone stabbing another."
Hadad refuses to leave Nahariya and even hopes that he will eventually return to the police force. He is currently under suspension. But he does not feel out of danger. "I know the crime families," he said.
"They have patience. Another year or two, and revenge will come."