Latest Gangland Killings May Give Israel Police Leads

Police have been largely unable to track down the culprits responsible for the violent killings during this crime wave.

The double killing on Monday in Rishon Letzion was a gruesome addition to criminal gang warfare that has raged in the center of the country for months. The two latest victims were Ohad Franco and Daniel Samra.

Police have been largely unable to track down the culprits responsible for the violent killings during this crime wave. The failure to do so has cast a spotlight on problems faced by the police force in central regions, starting with the inadequate number of men on patrol. On Monday, after the murders of Franco and Samra, as the two remained lifeless in a car while hundreds of curious pedestrians gazed at the grisly scene, police at the Rishon Letzion station held an emergency meeting with officers from various regions.

double-murder in Rishon Letzion - Ofer Vakhnin - 22022012
Ofer Vakhnin

It was chaired by police central district Commander Bentzi Sau, and Commander Yoav Segelovitch, the head of the police investigation and intelligence branch. Such a gathering of high-ranking officers at the Rishon Letzion depot is reserved for special events in the criminal underworld, like the murder of criminal kingpin Yaakov Alperon or alternatively, following the murder of high-profile distinguished citizens such as Judge Adi Azar.

Under normal circumstances, minor crime players such as Franco and Samra would not get top police investigators to leave their offices on a cold, rainy day. But the double murder in Rishon Letzion led police to conclude that they have new leads.

In recent months, the underworld has carried out a spree of hits. This is a war of assassination of low-ranking crime players; yet it is being orchestrated by leading kingpins of the underworld.

Recently, investigating a murder incident in Bat Yam, police were able to establish that while a young criminal was killed, a top-ranking crime figure, who is hotly pursued by police authorities, was present at the scene. This kingpin was himself a target of past assassination attempts; in the Bat Yam incident, as in previous cases, he managed to flee from the police at the last moment. The Bat Yam crime led police to track down developments in Israel’s changing crime scene; and new suspects became targeted by police investigators.

Also, in early 2010 the central district police, under the direction of Deputy Commander Yigal Ben Shalom, decided to initiate a major campaign to arrest major crime figures, and break up identified crime gangs.

One name which was mentioned in this crackdown was a 26 year old from Rishon Letzion, David Muyel. In May 2011, police received intelligence information suggesting , Muyel was holding explosives in a relative’s apartment in Rishon Letzion. Police agents were able to replace the explosives with duds, and install a hidden camera, and then wait for Muyel to make his next move. Ten days later, Muyel took an explosive en route to a planned murder. Police used a film of this criminal’s maneuvers with the explosive to obtain an indictment against him. Muyel, it turned out, ruled over a small gang of operatives; the two victims of Monday’s slaying in Rishon Letzion, Samra and Franco, took orders from him.

Muyel was imprisoned, but his lawyer obtained various privileges for him, including the right to take part in his father’s funeral and visit with relatives during the subsequent mourning period.

Tracking down his movements during these furloughs, police managed to piece together new information about crime gangs. Despite such fragmentary leads, police ability to track down perpetrators during recent rounds of murderous hits has been extremely limited.

Police have been unable to apprehend hit men who appear on the scene on motorbikes, fire at their targets, and then disappear. Sometimes security cameras have captured glimpses of these assassins, but the criminals have recently learned to avoid the cameras. Also, the criminals have used decoy motorcycles: they use stolen bikes, and ones with fake license plates.

Assassins have learned to appear on the scene of a hit in ways that don’t leave any incriminating evidence; and they flee to a network of hideouts, eluding the police.