Car bomb shakes Ashkelon in city's second underworld blast in less than 10 days

Reported mobster critically injured in explosion; senior police official says bombing “as grave as a terrorist attack.”

Police cars at night 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Israel Police)
Police cars at night 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Israel Police)
                    For the second time in 10 days, a car bomb shook an Ashkelon neighborhood on Saturday night, leaving one man in critical condition.
Police said the man, now in the city’s Barzilai Medical Center, is well known to investigators.
He is thought to be a member of mobster Shalom Domrani’s organization, which suffered a blow on October 24 when one of its members, Jackie Benita, was killed in a car bomb and another, Avi Biton, was badly wounded. Biton, known as a senior associate of Domrani, lost both of his legs and an eye.
Shortly after the blast Saturday night, which occurred on ORT Street, Southern District head Asst.-Ch. Yoram Halevy called an emergency meeting with district police. He said they would continue to increase their deployment in high-crime areas of the city.
Halevy said that he had ordered the deployment of dozens of Police and Border Police officers to fight criminal elements in the Ashkelon and “strengthen public safety.”
The bombing was “as grave as a terrorist attack,” he said.
Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino arrived at the scene and said officers were making extra efforts to apprehend those responsible for the attack.
“We have no intention of allowing such incidents to take place and we have concentrated our efforts on this. It is our duty to calm the situation and find those responsible and our efforts will continue until they are behind bars.”
Two days after the October 24 blast, police brought six alleged Domrani associates before a judge in Rishon Lezion, where they were ordered held on suspicion of stealing CCTV footage showing the placing of the bomb.
It is believed that the men stole the footage in an effort to find out who placed the bomb, so they could take revenge.
The killing sparked fears of a wave of underworld killings across the country. The Knesset Interior and Environment Committee held a special meeting on Wednesday on the issue of organized crime and police efforts against it.
Based in the South, the Domrani organization is one of the largest criminal organizations in Israel, making money from illegal gambling, protection and other interests, with a reach moving beyond its normal sphere of influence. Domrani has a number of enemies and has been the subject of a number of assassination attempts, including a failed plot last year by brothers Dudu and Maor Megidish, leaders of an Ashdod- based crime operation, to kill him by firing an antitank missile from atop a tractor parked near Domrani’s house in Moshav Otzem, in the Lachish region.
While police questioned other Domrani foes – including several members of the Ramle-based Jawrushi crime family – after the last bombing, there has been speculation that the blast may have been part of a struggle within the Domrani organization, speculation that will likely continue to grow following Saturday night’s bombing.