Police intercepted a gang armed with swords and clubs that had set out to launch a brutal attack on a convenience store in Holon last month in "revenge" for a decision by a store worker to refuse to sell beers to an underage gang member.
"The Lachish Sub-District's Central Unit averted what I can only describe as a terror attack," a police spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
A 17-year-old youth had become enraged after being told he was too young to purchase alcohol on the night of August 6, at approximately 10 p.m., at the David Shivuk Sweets store in Holon.
After threatening the storeowner, David Kosiav, and an employee, the youth wasted little time in contacting his friends, some of whom have long and violent criminal backgrounds in Ashkelon, with a request to respond to the "insult."
The gang members who took their friend's call did not know they were under electronic surveillance by the Lachish sub-district's Central Unit, which had bugged some of their cell phones as part of a previous investigation centering on a bomb attack against a china shop owner in Kiryat Gat.
According to police, two gang members planted an explosive device at the china shop and set off a second device under the shop owner's vehicle, prompting the wiretapping undercover operation.
As officers listened in on communications between the suspects, they were stunned to discover a violent plot for an armed assault on the store coming together.
"We're going to mess his face up," one of the gang members, named by police as 18-year-old Hai Ben-Assaf Mahluf, was heard saying on the phone to a friend. "Get me clubs, whatever is needed," a second suspect, Edi Ben-Yitzhak Mahluf, 33, told an accomplice. A third gang member was heard asking for "fruits" during a phone conversation - a code word for grenades, with the intention of planting the explosives at the store.
For the next 12 hours, the gang members made dozens of calls to assemble an array of weapons and three vehicles to transport the attackers.
The suspects then traveled in a convoy north from Ashkelon, entering Holon on the night of August 7.
"The gang was surprised to encounter police. When the first car was topped, the remaining suspects in the other vehicles trailing behind drove to a night club," police said in a statement to court.
One suspect, an occupant of the first car that was pulled over, later told accomplices on the phone that "it was a miracle that the others spotted what was going on and broke away."
"The two remaining vehicles contained the clubs and the swords," police added.
On Thursday, a Kiryat Gat Magistrate complied with a police request to keep five suspects, aged 17, 18, 19, 23, and 33 - four from Ashkelon, and one from Holon - in custody until the end of legal proceedings.
The Head of the Lachish Sub-District, Dep.-Cmdr. Alon Levave, praised "the outstanding work of the Central Unit," adding, "Thanks to this quality operation, physical injury was undoubtedly prevented."