Under a heavy cloak of security, the police's public enemy No. 1, Amir Mulner, was released from the hospital on Tuesday after he was stabbed a day earlier during an underworld "summit" at a Herzliya hotel.
Police went on high alert Tuesday in preparation for what they predicted would be a rise in gangland hits in response to Monday's brawl in the lobby of the Daniel Hotel. Immediately following the stabbing, police rushed to court and obtained a gag order preventing publication of the names of the other underworld figures who were present.
"We need to be prepared for the possibility that the situation will escalate, since these types of attacks usually do not go unanswered," a police officer said.
Mulner and two of his associates were stabbed Monday and went on their own to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.
The Tel Aviv District Central Investigative Unit has been assigned the case.
Eyewitnesses in the lobby at the time of the stabbing said despite the many bodyguards present, a scuffle broke out and guns were drawn.
On Tuesday, known crime figures, including Netanya kingpin Assi Abutbol, visited Mulner in the hospital. Armored luxury cars parked outside the hospital and bodyguards stood at the door to Mulner's room.
Police maintained a heavy presence in the hospital to prevent a repeat of the 1999 murder of underworld figure Pinhas Buhbut at Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer.
Mulner left the hospital in the afternoon and returned to his home in an upscale Tel Aviv apartment building where former prime minister Ehud Barak also lives.
Described as the criminal world's rising star, Mulner, 33, has been named as the heir apparent to jailed kingpin Ze'ev Rosenstein, who is currently awaiting extradition to the US to stand trail for running an international drug ring. Mulner is said to be a major player in the Israel gray market and is closely connected to the Abutbol and the Mousli crime organizations.
Mulner fled Israel several years ago after a former crime partner of his, Nissim Yamin, turned state's witness and incriminated him in the murder of one of his rivals, Shimon Hadif. Mulner moved to Mexico and reportedly shared an apartment with an old friend, former policeman Tzahi Ben-Or, who allegedly murdered Buhbut after he was hired to do so by Oded and Sharon Perinian. A special committee was recently established to investigate the police's handling of the Buhbut murder case.
In June 2004, Yamin was murdered as he sat watching television with his children in his Holon apartment. Police said an unknown assailant leaned a ladder on the front of the building, climbed up and shot Yamin. Mulner returned to Israel shortly after the murder.
But while police said they were confident they would catch Mulner's stabber, senior officers told The Jerusalem Post that without up-to-date intelligence equipment, it was virtually impossible to defeat the underworld organizations.
"We are way behind the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] when it comes to resources," one officer said. "Therefore, it is almost impossible for us to stay ahead of the game when it comes to these criminals who have unlimited resources."