The Jerusalem police claim they foiled an attempted underworld assassination yesterday when they arrested two members of Yitzhak Abergil's crime organization near a car belonging to Sam and Yossi Malka, leaders of a rival group known as the Jerusalem Gang.
The suspects were arrested on Ha'aliya St., near the Holiday Inn Hotel, located at the capital's western entrance, while the Malkas were using the hotel's gym. The arrest was made possible by an intelligence tip.
No explosive devices or other weaponry were found on the suspects, and a police robot found no trace of explosives in the car. Nevertheless, police believe the suspects had planned to booby-trap the car and then blow it up once the Malka brothers were inside - or, alternatively, to attack the Malkas in some other fashion. The suspects, police maintained, were "roaming about near the car under suspicious circumstances."
This morning, police will ask the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court to extend the suspects' remand.
Relations between the Abergil organization and the Jerusalem Gang have not always been hostile. For instance, an indictment filed against the Abergils in the United States in July charges the Abergil organization with laundering hundreds of millions of shekels embezzled from the Tel Aviv-based Trade Bank; yet it was the Jerusalem Gang whose extortion of Ofer Maximov caused Maximov's sister, Etti Alon, to embezzle the funds.
However, members of the Abergil organization believe that Gabi Ben Harosh, a member of the Jerusalem Gang, is the person who informed against Yitzhak and Meir Abergil to the American authorities - a suspicion that has inevitably soured relations.
Sources in the Jerusalem District Police praised the force's promptitude in foiling the alleged plot. "You shouldn't get too excited over the fact that no bomb was discovered," insisted one. "What's important to stress is the speed with which the forces reached the site."
Following several recent cases in which innocent bystanders have been wounded or killed during alleged underworld assassinations, the sources explained, foiling such assassination attempts has become a high priority for police forces throughout the country.
Also yesterday, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court extended the Abergil brothers' remands for another 20 days. The U.S. is seeking Yitzhak and Meir Abergil's extradition, and the Israeli authorities fear that the Abergils are likely to flee if they are not kept in jail until the extradition hearings are concluded. The court also extended the remands of two other members of the gang who are wanted in the U.S., Moshe Malul and Israel Ozifa.
While the United States has yet to file a formal extradition request, it has made its intention clear, and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz told the court in writing that the U.S. Department of Justice is currently in the midst of preparing the affidavits and other evidence necessary to support the planned request.