Top crime boss arrested over deadly July car bombing in central Israel

Suspect's attorney says the arrests are a "sham" and that his client denies involvement in blast that killed two.

Arrest [illustrative] 370 (photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
Arrest [illustrative] 370
(photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
Underworld figure Avi Ruhan was arrested on Monday morning on suspicion of taking part in a car bombing at the Yarkonim junction in July that left two men dead.
Ruhan was arrested along with Hanoch Atzmon, an organized crime figure from Rosh Ha’ayin, who is also suspected of being involved in the blast that left Dekel Tzafar, 35, and Sharon Farhi, 31, of Rosh Ha’ayin dead at the scene.
In the days after the bombing, Central District detectives made a wave of arrests, but no indictments have been issued in the case.
Tzafar was reportedly an associate of Eli Orkabi, a Petah Tikva crime figure killed a month before the blast in a brazen midday shooting near a kindergarten and a high school in the city that also left Elan Fartush, a 42-year-old building contractor, dead.
Ruhan and Atzmon are believed to also be linked to that shooting, as part of a struggle over their interests in the Sharon region.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post from the remand hearing at the Ramle Magistrate’s Court, Ruhan’s attorney, Kobi Ben Shaya, said his client has denied any connection to the bombing and that it was “solely a sham arrest meant to show the public that the police are doing something about crime.”
Shortly thereafter, the court extended the remand of Ruhan and Atzmon until Sunday.
The Yarkonim bombing is not believed to be linked to the two bombings in Ashkelon in the past two weeks that targeted members of Shalom Domrani’s organization, nor is the Sunday arrest of three associates of mobster Amir Mulner on weapons charges. Both the arrests on Monday and those on Sunday took place against the backdrop of mounting criticism of police from the public and politicians, who say they are not doing enough to fight organized crime.
A major target of police investigations, Ruhan was for many years a soldier in the Abergil crime family, before setting up his own operation in the Sharon and the Rishon Lezion and Holon area, as Abergil’s power has faded in recent years.
He has maintained business interests in Morocco as well, where he has visited on a regular basis in recent years, as has Shalom Domrani, with whom he reportedly has good relations.
Much of the recent underworld bloodshed in the past couple of years in the center and in the Sharon is believed to be linked to the struggle by Ruhan’s organization to maintain control of its gambling, protection, and loansharking interests against rival organizations.