City of Ashkelon is rocked by car bombs targeting crime family as businesses associated with mobsters are bulldozed
© Alon Ron/Haaretz
Shalom Domrani, the reputed head of the prominent Israeli crime family the Domrani organisation, in court.
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.