Tel Aviv police think a suspected criminal ring from the Sharon region was behind Sunday's torching of the car of Strong Israel party chairman Ephraim Sneh, due to his intervention in a local dispute involving the individuals. However, other police officials, who deal with the individuals and organizations believed to be behind the fire, say they don't think those suspects were involved.

The Tel Aviv District team investigating the torching is focusing on the suspects from the Sharon, while officials in the Central District crimes unit, which has been dealing with the suspects for some years, says they had nothing to do with the incident.

At about the time that his car was being torched outside his Herzliya home, Sneh received a phone threat that he would be harmed. "Threats will not deter me from taking a stand at the side of crime victims," Sneh said yesterday.

Police traced the approximate geographic location of the call's origin to the area where the suspects live. One line of inquiry in the case concerns Sneh's attempts to help a group of people from an unidentified city in the Sharon who said that after they opened a business, they were threatened by the suspects, and that grenades were thrown at their place of business and at their homes.

The Central District's crime unit began investigating the case about 18 months ago.

The business that was the focus of the threats was closed recently, according to the owners as a result of pressure from the suspects.

Sneh decided to use the events in his anti-crime election campaign. He aided the complainants in their dealings with the authorities. He also used footage from the security camera of the business that showed an unidentified perpetrator setting fire to the owners' car in his election advertisements. The campaign spot was aired the day that Sneh's own car was torched.