Until the next explosion

With easy access to cheap and devastatingly effective explosives, its no wonder criminals have made bombs their go-to weapon over the past couple years.

Aftermath of car bomb in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: COURTESY ISRAEL POLICE)
Aftermath of car bomb in Tel Aviv.
It is true what Israel Police Inspector-General Yochanan Danino said on Sunday: there is no police force in the world that has managed to completely eliminate the threat of explosives used by criminals.
That detail is probably little comfort to the average Israeli, who on Saturday night was again reminded that something is terribly broken in the country, and the police seem incapable of fixing it.
The dust had hardly settled from a Petah Tikva car bomb that left two men dead last Monday morning, when terror again visited a major Israeli city on Saturday night, blowing up a man in his car in Tel Aviv’s Kfar Shalem neighborhood.
The average Israeli citizen would be forgiven for losing count of the car bombs that have become organized criminals’ weapon of choice over the past year or so.
Counting from the deadly blast in Ashkelon in late October that targeted Shalom Domrani’s organization and sparked public outrage and police vows to fight “criminal terrorism,” there have been 10 car bombs over the past 15 weeks, with four fatalities so far.
Following the Petah Tikva bombing, another bomb totaled a car in Kiryat Yam, a man was caught trying to place a bomb on a car at a Nahariya market, and at Moshav Heletz, the home of a major rival of Domrani’s, a car bomb lightly wounded a man “well known to the Israel Police.”
It is easy to see why.
Remotely detonated bombs are cheap and there’s no shortage of dealers.
In 2012, Tel Aviv police busted a couple of high school students from Holon who they said sold rudimentary but effective bombs for NIS 2,000-4,000 a piece.
A Ynet piece this week highlighted a freelance underworld bomb-maker who sold sophisticated, ready-to-use remotely detonated bombs for NIS 30,000 each, according to police investigators.
The Israeli underworld also has no shortage of men willing and capable of making their own bombs, often using know-how acquired during service in the IDF.
The last point was again emphasized by Danino on Sunday, who said that the majority of the explosives used by Israeli criminals originate in the IDF, and police will continue to work to increase cooperation with the army.
The bomb-makers themselves are usually several steps removed from the person who places the bomb, complicating police efforts to track the explosives.
In addition, once a bomb is set off, the blast and the subsequent flames leave no fingerprints and little if any unique forensic details of the device to establish the identity of the bomb-maker.
Firearms, on the other hand, require getting close to the victim, and often leave behind traceable shells and even witnesses.
In addition, the killer has to dispose of the weapon, which if found may be traced through ballistic tests.
There is also a psychological impact to bombings on would-be rescuers.
Dying in a bomb blast is a cruel and painful death.
Victims often do not die in the initial blast or shockwave, but often burn alive, screaming for help from paramedics who cannot approach the burning vehicle to rescue them.
If a bombing victim survives, he is often left paralyzed or missing a leg, as in the case of Avi Biton, the Domrani associate hit in the late October blast in Ashekleon.
With the lack of tough enforcement or serious sentences against bomb-makers and those caught with explosives, the only real deterrence will be the danger of handling the explosives themselves, which often go off prematurely in so-called “work accidents.”
In June 2013, Danino announced that police would launch an anti-explosives unit, because of the many incidents in which bombs are used by Israeli criminals. Not long after that, in July, two men were killed in a car bombing at the Yarkonim Junction in Petah Tikva, an attack that has yet to be solved.
In the nearly four months since the bombing that killed Jacky Benita and wounded Avi Biton in Ashkelon in late October, there has been a repeated narrative from Danino and senior police officers in Israel’s top anti-organized crime unit, LAHAV 433, arguing with statistics that they’re winning the war on crime.
As far as police are concerned, the media hype up organized crime figures, who are mostly members of criminal gangs.
They say that over the past couple years there has been a marked increase in the number of Israeli criminals moving abroad, which they credit to police pressure.
Also, according to police, Israeli criminals lack loyalty or allegiances, and are far less sophisticated and capable than the police.
Your average Israeli citizen would beg to differ.
Over the past several months, explosions have taken place across all of Israel, hitting towns like Ashkelon that have a reputation for organized crime. But they have also struck central Tel Aviv, where in one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city center a bomb destroyed a jeep belonging to a wellknown prosecutor in early November.
Despite their claims of success and the decision by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to extend Danino’s term by a fourth year, the feeling among the public is that the Israel Police has no answer to the continued, brazen use of explosives by Israeli criminals.
The sense is that both organized crime and small-time criminals have little to deter them from blowing each other up in the middle of the country’s cities.
As long as the means to wage explosive warfare are so easy to obtain, criminals will continue to use them.
As long as the police are not able to deal a serious blow to this phenomenon, the feeling of fear and frustration by the public will only increase, as will the body count.