Israel’s growing gang violence leads to calls for anti-terror tactics

The Guardian reports: Simon was standing in his shop in sight of Ashkelon’s football stadium when he heard the bomb go off.

At first, said Simon – who declined to give his surname – he thought it was a Palestinian missile from Gaza, a short distance along the coast. “I shut the shop and smoked a cigarette to calm myself,” he said. After a few minutes, puzzled he had not heard the air-raid siren, he stuck his head out of his door to see the flaming shell of a car. Its passenger, and the target of the blast, was a member of prominent Israeli crime organisation the Domrani family.

The car bomb on Ort Street, close to a school, was not a solitary incident. In the space of a fortnight spanning the final week of October and the beginning of this month, two car bombs detonated in the southern port city, both targeting Domrani family members.

Ashkelon is not the only Israeli town to be rocked by mob violence this year. On 7 November, a device attached to the car of a prominent state prosecutor, well-known for pursuing Israel’s crime families, detonated in Tel Aviv.

This rise in incidents has inspired a fierce debate that reached a climax last week with a call from Israel’s hawkish public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, for the use of anti-terror tactics usually reserved for Palestinian militants – including administrative detention – against Jewish Israeli crime families. As he made his call, several high-profile arrests took place and a number of businesses associated with mobsters were bulldozed in Ashkelon.

If one man embodies the country’s reviled organised crime network, it is 38-year-old Shalom Domrani, reputed head of the family that bears his name. It is his war with a former associate that has thrown Israel’s gangsters into an unwelcome spotlight. Domrani was arrested on 9 November with six of his associates. The circumstances of his detention underscore another cause for mounting concern over the activities of organised criminals: the fear that crime families are making money by infiltrating local government. [Continue reading…]

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