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An explosion in a Bat Yam garage that killed one man and injured two yesterday was a "work accident" involving a pipe bomb mishandled by mobsters, police said.

At about 5 P.M. yesterday, three men arrived at the Bat Yam industrial area in a Jaguar car, police said. They parked the vehicle on Ort Yisrael Street and made for a nearby garage. Police suspect one of the men was carrying a medium-sized pipe bomb, which the three had prepared in order to assassinate a rival underworld figure.

"It seems as if they were looking for a quiet place to work on the explosive, but when they started messing with it, something went wrong," a senior Tel Aviv police source said yesterday.

A short while after the men went to the back of the garage, a large explosion occurred, and the garage caught fire. When the fire brigade arrived at the garage, it found the three men lying injured on the ground. One man was pronounced dead at the scene by an ambulance crew that arrived soon afterward. The other two, one of whom is in critical condition, were taken to Ichilov Hospital.

Large police forces then combed the area, led by Tel Aviv District Commander Maj. Gen. Shahar Ayalon and Commander Yehuda Dahan, who leads the Ayalon District. Police initially believed the blast was caused by a gas balloon explosion, but the remains of the bomb were soon located.

The investigation was assigned to the Tel Aviv police's Central Investigative Unit, and detectives from that unit subsequently went to the home of suspected mobster Moti Hesin to interrogate him on suspicion of involvement with the blast.

The police have not yet been able to identify the man who was killed, as his remains were in very poor condition. The other two suspects are thought to be members of the Abergil crime ring.