Netanya underworld bombing underlines uphill police battle

Mobster seriously wounded in train station explosion.

car bomb 88 (photo credit: )
car bomb 88
(photo credit: )
A bomb decimated an SUV in the parking lot of a Netanya train station during the Wednesday morning rush hour, seriously wounding the vehicle's driver, a known criminal. Wednesday's bombing was the latest in a series of mob-related incidents in which organized criminals have carried out brazen attacks in public areas, and increasingly in broad daylight. Rescue teams managed to pull the mobster's body from the wreckage and administer life-saving first aid treatment. The victim remained in serious but stable condition Wednesday evening, suffering from blast-related wounds and burns. A gag order was placed on publication of the victim's name as well as other details surrounding the incident hours after it occurred. In October, known criminal Yossi Afriat was killed and four people, including an infant and a young boy, were wounded in a midday bombing in Rishon Lezion. Following that bombing, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter held what he described as the first of a series of ministerial meetings to discuss the use of explosives in criminal activity. Since that meeting, however, criminals have used explosives at least twice when they threw grenades at mayors' houses. And while the Rishon bombing investigation remains hidden under a hefty gag order, no indictment seems to have been filed in the ensuing four months since the blast. Abutbul family scion Francois Abutbul was investigated by police in connection with one of those grenade attacks - at the home of Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg - but was not detained. Only one day prior to this latest episode of mob violence, two underworld figures fingered by police as experienced hit men were granted a plea bargain in the alleged murder of Tzahi Ben-Or. Eran Hiya and Gadi Hazan, are both suspected of visiting Ben-Or in his Cancun, Mexico apartment and then murdering him and attempting to kill his girlfriend. Hiya, who knew the cop-turned-killer before he fled the country, was allegedly sent by the Perinian brothers to silence the would-be state's witness. According to the plea bargain, however, Hiya will serve eight years and Hazan will serve four after the two confessed to "causing severe injuries" to Ben-Or's girlfriend, Joana Darli in exchange for Ben-Or's murder being dropped from the charge sheet. The two slit Darli's throat before leaving her for dead in the apartment. The two agreed to pay NIS 60,000 in retribution to their victim. Although not referring specifically to the Ben-Or case, which has stood at the center of controversy ever since his murder, one former police officer who specialized in organized crime said that even when police manage to build cases against criminals, the district attorney's office fails to handle them correctly. "Police work around the clock to build cases and gather evidence. And when the district attorney comes to the court, you see that they frequently are not well-acquainted with the cases," the former police officer said. "They are given dozens of cases, and they can't be familiar with all of them." In mid-February, the judges will announce whether they uphold the sentencing deal described in the plea bargain. The district attorney's office said following the plea bargain that they did not have adequate evidence to convict Hiya and Hazan on the murder charges, and that contradictory testimony had damaged their case. The district attorney's office said that they had requested evidence from the Mexican authorities who investigated the case, but never received it.