Police: Mobsters planned to blame bomb on far-Right

Jaffa suspects allegedly hired by lawyer to kill Tel Aviv municipality official, bomb Scientology center; eight suspects had already prepared bomb.

Hassan Bek mosque Tel Aviv (photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
Hassan Bek mosque Tel Aviv
(photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
An alleged Jaffa Arab crime organization planned to detonate a bomb under the car of a sheikh at the Hassan Bek Mosque there last month over a business dispute, and then spray-paint “price-tag” graffiti in the area so the far right would be blamed for the attack, police say.
(The term “price-tag” is a reference to the practice where extremist settlers sometimes respond to the government dismantling West Bank outposts by vandalizing Palestinian property.) Eight suspects have been under arrest since last month, including four brothers from one family, and two brothers from another.
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The suspects, who were being monitored by undercover police, had assembled a powerful bomb, and were arrested in a police raid on a home in Jaffa last month, hours before they allegedly planned to plant the explosives.
They had allegedly planned to detonate the bomb after evening prayers at the Jaffa mosque.
The suspects had been hired by an individual who cannot be named to carry out the act, Tel Aviv police’s central unit believes.
The alleged plot was only one in a long series of attempted assassinations apparently carried out by the suspects for money.
Separately, the suspects were allegedly hired by a real estate lawyer, named as Gor Finkelstein to harm Shota Hovel, head of the construction oversight department at the Tel Aviv Municipality, following Hovel’s decision to knock down a building in Jaffa owned by Scientologists due to violations of building regulations.
Finkelstein allegedly had a financial interest in preventing the building from being demolished, and was behind the May 9 attempt to detonate a car bomb under Hovel’s car in Bat Yam. Hovel escaped from the incident unharmed, but the vehicle was damaged.
In a subsequent assassination attempt, three men dressed as police officers stopped Hovel in his car and tried to attack him with an electric shocker. That attack failed, too, and the attackers fled. Hovel was lightly wounded.
Finkelstein eventually concluded that it would be most profitable for him to arrange for the building to be rebuilt elsewhere, police suspect, as he received a commission from contractors behind the construction.
He therefore repeatedly ordered the Jaffa suspects to damage the building, police allege. In one attempt, a truck carrying 300 liters of fuel and a gas canister was allegedly used in a failed bid to bomb the building.
In a second attempt, a suspect allegedly entered the building, poured gasoline inside, and set fire to the place. That arson attempt failed.
The suspects had allegedly planned for that attack to be blamed on Jewish religious organizations that are opposed to the presence of Scientology in Israel.
Finkelstein is also suspected of sending the Jaffa suspects to kill the partner of his ex-wife.
Attorneys Avi Himi and Avi Hanish, who are representing Finkelstein, said in a statement, “We completely reject the suspicions against our client.”
The attorneys added that a broad media ban had prevented them from being able to prove that Finkelstein was innocent of all wrongdoing, and that they could now proceed to prove his innocence.
Lawyers for the Jaffa-based suspects have also denied any wrongdoing by their clients.
A statement released by the Scientology Center in Israel said, “At this stage it is too soon to respond as legal procedures are still at their beginning phase. We are certainly waiting for the episode to end and are awaiting for law enforcement representatives to make fully available all of the evidence.”
The statement added, “We don’t know what evidence the police has, but we have no reason to believe that Gor is not innocent.”
The center stressed that neither Finkelstein nor any other suspects were Scientology members, adding that he was hired as an outside real estate legal representative “with a good reputation, and a well-based office in Tel Aviv.”
Finkelstein had been working with the Scientology Center for a number of years, the statement said.
“Due to his standing and proven ability, we trusted him to handle for us matters connected with the purchasing of our building. Gor Finkelstein is one of a number of Israeli professionals we hired to deal with the purchasing and renovation of the al-Hambara building in Jaffa,” the center said.