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Nati Ohayon, a 27-year-old underworld figure with known ties to the reputed Abutbul crime family was shot dead in Netanya on Monday by an unknown assailant who fled from the scene on a motorcycle.

Ohayon's friend Rami Maimon was moderately hurt in the shooting.

The police fielded a report of gunfire at around 7:15 P.M. Monday evening. Large police forces arrived at the scene to find the two victims, having both been shot at close range, in a vehicle.

A team of paramedics pronounced Ohayon dead at the scene and evacuated his friend to the Laniado Hospital in Netanya for treatment.

An initial investigation revealed that the motorcyclist had apparently ambushed his victims while they exited the home of a friend, also known to police for organized crime ties.

Netanya Chief Superintendent Ron Gartner said that the investigation was still in its preliminary stages and that the background was not yet clear. "We are investigating the circumstances," he said, "we are gathering intelligence while combing the area for the suspected shooters."

Reputed crime figure Francois Abutbul arrived at the scene, accompanied by the victim's wife, who soon collapsed and departed.

There have been concerns of an all-out underworld war in Israel since last month, when organized crime kingpin Ya'akov Alperon was killed in a car bombing.

Alperon, 54, was killed when his private vehicle passed over a bomb at the corner of Pinkas Street and Namir Road in north Tel Aviv. He was on his way home from court, where two of his sons had their remand extended for alleged threats and extortion.

In the past, gangland hits have included weapons like anti-tank missiles as well as guns and bombs, and bystanders have been killed and wounded.