17 People Charged Over Alleged Jaffa Crime Ring

Two indictments were submitted Thursday that included allegations of blackmail and violence; 24 suspects have been arrested thus far for gang-related activities.

Two indictments were submitted to the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday, following the arrests of 24 people on suspicion of gang-related crimes.

The indictments charged 17 suspects in what police have called the "Pomegranate Tree" case, and included allegations of blackmail and violence used to intimidate victims into returning high interest loans to loan sharks.

Izzat Hamed - Moti Kimche
Moti Kimche

In one case discussed in the indictment, a grenade was thrown at a home; in another a car was set on fire; and in a third a man was shot in the foot. The file was compiled due to cooperation from two state witnesses previously involved in the alleged crime ring.

The 17 defendants face charges of, among others, extortion by force, extortion by threats, arson and causing serious damage.

The indictments were submitted the day after it was disclosed that Tel Aviv police have conducted a six-week investigation, leading to the arrests of the 24 suspects.

Over the course of the investigation, police arrested Izzat Hamed, who is suspected of running a criminal gang in Jaffa and other parts of central Israel. The police were also able to secure the two state witnesses in the process.

Police began the investigation after they arrested a suspect, allegedly involved in the grenade incident included in the indictment. The incident, which took place in Yehud, involved a grenade being thrown at the home of the parents of Yaniv Ben David. When the suspect was questioned, he said that Izzat Hamed had ordered the attack.

Police soon began to believe that they were dealing with a much greater crime web, including attempted blackmail, murder and bombings. It was therefore decided to pass the case on to Tel Aviv's central police unit.