Bomb kills 3, injures many in Tel Aviv

Police think mobsters were targeting rival

December 12, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

TEL AVIV, Israel - Three people were killed and dozens more were injured yesterday in Tel Aviv when a bomb exploded at a currency exchange shop in what police suspect was an attempt by Israeli mobsters to assassinate a rival kingpin.

The attack marked the third time in four months that bystanders have been killed in mob-related violence. Police, overwhelmed by Palestinian suicide bombings, vowed to strike back.

"What's new and worrying to us is that many innocent people are dying," Israeli police spokesman Gil Kleiman said. "There is no question that they [mobsters] have upped the stakes."

Police Chief Shlomo Aharonishky gathered senior police officers last night to discuss the increasing attacks, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would do the same with his Cabinet on Sunday.

The Israeli news media and public have long been critical of the police stance on organized crime. Criminal rings involved in prostitution, gambling and drug trafficking are flourishing while Israeli police have their hands full trying to thwart Palestinian militants.

"What is this here, Chicago?" Amit Hanin, the daughter of one recent mob victim, said during an Israeli television interview after yesterday's attack. "The police don't do anything" to fight crime syndicates, she said.

Hanin's mother was killed in August in a Tel Aviv office building by a bomb intended for an underworld figure that exploded in an elevator.

Last month, a hand grenade tossed into a used-car lot by mobsters seeking protection money from the lot owner killed an Israeli couple in Hadera, in northern Israel.

The latest bomb exploded at 12:30 p.m. over the door of a currency exchange shop near a busy intersection in Tel Aviv. Several cars on the street were damaged, and a porch on a nearby building collapsed.

Two people were killed instantly in the explosion, police said. A third victim, a teen-age boy, died of his wounds at a hospital. None of the dead had any connection to the apparent target, casino owner Ze'ev Rosenstein, who escaped with minor injuries, Kleiman said.

At least four other attempts have been made on Rosenstein's life during the past decade, most recently in June.

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