Dozens of police deploy in Ashkelon after two car bombings hit city

Reinforced security include undercover unit, plainclothes detectives and border police; show of force meant mainly to calm residents.

Ashkelon car bomb 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Israel Police )
Ashkelon car bomb 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Israel Police )
After the second car bombing in Ashkelon in less than two weeks, the Southern District police on Sunday began deploying dozens of police and Border Patrol officers to the city as part of what they say is an effort to restore the feeling of security amid ongoing underworld violence.
Ch.-Supt. Doron Ben-Amo, the spokesman for the Southern District, said the reinforcements include around 70 officers “both blue and green” (regular police and Border Police) from across the district, as well as plainclothes detectives, mounted cops, and officers from the Border Police undercover “101 unit.” Lachish subdistrict detectives are also being reinforced by additional detectives from the Negev subdistrict, who will help them work the car bomb cases.
Ben-Amo said the deployment is meant mainly as a show of force meant to comfort residents concerned about the recent mob violence.
In addition, he said that the reinforcements would also be patrolling local clubs, kiosks and restaurants checking business licenses and tax documents. He added that part of the rationale for such enforcement is that many of these businesses are linked to the protection and extortion rackets that provide a major source of income to organized crime gangs.
Dror Damari, the man who was wounded in Saturday night’s bombing was in stable condition in Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center on Sunday afternoon, though he lost both of his legs in the blast. Nine days earlier, Avi Biton also lost his legs in a car bombing in Ashkelon, while his driver Jackie Benita perished of his wounds not long after the blast. Both men, like Damari, are affiliated with the criminal organization run by Shalom Domrani, a major force in the south of Israel with interests nationwide.
In a Facebook picture that circulated widely in Israeli media on Sunday, Damari appears in a picture he posted the day after the first bombing, in which he can be seen with Benita and Biton, under the caption “such sadness.”
In a post only minutes before the blast Saturday, Damari had posted “have a good week,” which was met by over a dozen condolences after the blast.
Like in the previous week’s blast, police investigators will attempt to trace the whereabouts of the car before the blast, in an attempt to pinpoint where and when the explosive device was planted.
Following the previous blast, Domrani associates managed to make their way to the parking garage where Biton’s car had been parked before the bombing, and made off with the CCTV footage showing the planting of the bomb.
Police presume the men took the footage in order to try to identify the killer and get to him before police detectives.
MK Nachman Shai (Labor), a member of the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, on Sunday, called for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to appoint a special task force on crime, in the wake of recent events.
“It is clear that the police have failed in dealing with the rise in crime and the sophistication and means at the disposal of crime gangs.
This is a clear and present danger to public safety.”
Shai’s comments followed ones made by both National Police Commander Inspector- General Yochanan Danino and Southern District Commander Yoram Halevy Saturday night, in which they described the recent blasts as being equivalent to terror attacks in their severity and that the battle against organized crime is like that against terror organizations.
On Sunday afternoon the national police headquarter announced the arrest in Ramat Gan of three members of Amir Mulner’s crime organization accused of firearms offenses. The charges are not related to the gang war in the south police said.