Sun, Oct 01, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Bomb kills aide to well-known Israeli criminal

DIFFERENT TERROR The car bomb that went off as Israelis were preparing for Yom Kippur pointed to a growing war between the country's crime syndicates

AP , JERUSALEM

A powerful car explosion at a busy intersection in central Israel on Friday killed an associate of a well-known crime family and wounded five bystanders, officials said.

Police said the blast in the city of Rishon Letzion was the work of a rival crime gang and not that of Palestinian militants, as initially feared.

Police identified the dead man as Yossi Afriat, a midlevel debt collector and close associate of the underworld Abarjil family.

Afriat had a lengthy police record, police said.

The blast hit a main junction in Rishon Letzion, a large city south of Tel Aviv on Friday afternoon as Israelis were doing their last-minute shopping before the Jewish Sabbath beginning on Friday.

Rescue officials said a 10-year-old boy and a baby were among the wounded. Details on their injuries, however, were not immediately available.

The bomb was planted under the driver's seat and went off as Afriat was sitting.

The blast was of such power that cars at the junction and buildings 200m away were damaged.

Police closed the area and bomb experts were sent to the site, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

not the palestinians

Authorities initially feared the explosion was a suicide attack, but realized it was crime-related after seeing the bomb had been placed inside the car.

However, it took police investigators close to an hour to determine the nature of the bombing because of the large size of the explosive used and the sensitive timing of the blast.

yom kippur fears

The explosion took place just two days before the beginning of the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.

Israel traditionally tightens it security ahead of major Jewish holidays, when Palestinian suicide bombers have often carried out attacks.

Israeli security forces began enforcing a closure on the West Bank on Friday to prevent Palestinians from entering Israel until after Yom Kippur ends tomorrow night.

Accustomed to violence with its Palestinian neighbors, Israelis had traditionally felt relatively safe from violent crime. But in recent years, Israeli cities have also been plagued by mob wars.

In the worst instances -- though such attacks are rare -- gangsters have bombed busy streets and fired anti-tank missiles.

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