Underworld assassination attempt foiled

Jerusalem police on Wednesday thwarted the attempted assassination of a prominent city underworld figure, Eli Arish, police said. The police caught two suspected Israeli mobsters red-handed as they were planting a two-kilogram bomb under the vehicle of the would-be victim while it was parked in the city's Mea Shearim neighborhood, police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. The two men seized at the scene, Haim Sheetrit, 35, and Ronen Smolanski, 45, are suspected of belonging to a rival city mob family. They were nabbed when police officers on surveillance saw them placing the explosives under the driver's seat of the jeep, police said. Police sappers quickly neutralized the explosive device at the scene. Three other suspected leading city underworld figures, including alleged top underworld mobsters Sam and Yossi Malka, were arrested later in the morning in connection with the foiled attack, the police said. All five suspects were brought to a Jerusalem court Wednesday afternoon for a remand hearing. Arish, 46, is himself suspected of belonging to another underworld family led by alleged mobster Eli Nissim, who goes by the nickname 'the magician,' and is in direct competition with the group led by Malka, police said. Surveillance was being carried out in the area because of intelligence information amassed over the last several months indicating the Malka brothers were planning to assassinate Arish. The targeted vehicle was parked near the home of Arish's driver, police said. Police investigators saw the two suspects approach the jeep in their own car, get out, and place the bomb under the vehicle, the police said. Police said that had the bomb gone off as planned, the passengers in the jeep were likely to have been killed and a large number of passersby could have easily been injured in the blast. The attempt on the Arish's life was the second in the last five months. Last year, an assailant shot him in the face, moderately wounding him, as he got into his vehicle in the same area of the city. Police attributed the attacks to a power struggle between the mafia families. The underworld families, suspected of operating in Jerusalem, have had their activities vastly curtailed over the last few years because of heightened police surveillance and law enforcement crackdown. Their activities, however, are routinely overshadowed by the numerous on-again off-again terror threats facing the city.