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The assassination of crime kingpin Ya'akov Alperon Monday was "an earthquake for the underworld," said senior police sources.

Alperon, 54, was killed Monday afternoon 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.

Police expressed concern Monday over a potential confrontation between the country's major crime syndicates in the wake of the hit.

The father of seven children, Alperon stood at the head of a vast crime network and was considered one of the most recognized and influential criminal figures in Israel.

Shortly after 9 A.M., Alperon arrived at the courthouse on Weizman Street and parked his rented Volkswagen in an adjacent parking lot. The lot is reserved for taxicabs, but Alperon received special permission to use it from the owner. The owner was later questioned by police detectives.

Toward the end of the hearing, Alperon's wife Ahuva appeared in court. The remand for the sons - Dror and a minor known only as A. - was extended by 10 days, and their mother burst into tears. In what may have been his last words, Alperon told his wife, "Don't worry, Ahuva. In a few days they'll be released and it'll all be over."

After the hearing Alperon and his wife left the courthouse and drove off separately. Alperon got into the rented car and drove toward Kikar Hamedina and Pinkas Street. He had just turned into the northbound lane of Namir Road when the explosion occurred, a deafening blast heard throughout the city's northern quarters.

The driver of the vehicle behind Alperon's was moderately wounded, and a 13-year-old bystander waiting at a nearby bus stop was also lightly hurt.

Yonatan Efrati, who was driving on Namir Road when the blast occurred, said, "Suddenly I heard a huge blast, and I felt something hit my car. I pulled over and saw the car had just landed on top of mine, and inside it a man's body was leaning out of the car, and he looked dead."

A Tel Aviv police official told Haaretz that several leading underworld figures would be summoned for questioning on suspicion of involvement in the killing, but that police do not yet have firm evidence pointing to a single suspect.

Police sources confirmed, however, that crime kingpin Amir Mulner is a central suspect in the investigation. Yitzhak and Meir Abergil, currently in police custody until their extradition to the United States, are also prime suspects.

Rafi and Moshe Ohana, members of a rival family to the Alperons, have also been cited as possible suspects, as have members of the Kedoshim family of Herzliya.

Last night police placed a gag order on releasing further details surrounding the investigation.