Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan Hit by Two Underworld Spats

Police have arrested two men suspected of shooting an ex-soccer star, who was moderately wounded in south Tel Aviv in the early hours of Friday morning. The shooting came hours after unknown persons set off a bomb in Ramat Gan, in what police believe was an attempt on the life of a reputed crime boss.

Witnesses to the shooting of Felix Halfon told police they saw two young men on a motorcycle shoot the former Hapoel Tel Aviv player in the leg at around 4 A.M before trying to escape. Before the shooting, Halfon and a few other men were seen scuffling with a group of young men near the Arena club on Harakevet Street.

The shooters, according to police, are brothers aged 20 and 33, who were arrested shortly after the incident. One of the brothers, police said, escaped on the motorcycle. The other sibling is suspected of fleeing the scene by taxi.

"A motorcycle arrived with two guys wearing helmets, who fired toward his legs, but it didn't look like they wanted to kill him. He collapsed straightaway, and then the ambulances came," one witness said.

A bullet to the footballer's thigh ruptured a major blood vessel, resulting in rapid blood loss. He was operated on that night.

The two brothers suspected of shooting Halfon were arraigned on Friday, and their remand was extended by seven days. The two have criminal records involving theft and violence. They denied taking part in the shooting.

"Everyone involved in this incident was thoroughly drunk at the time," said a senior police officer. "It may have been the result of a trivial dispute that started that night at the club," he added. The two suspects said they did not know Halfon. Police said others were also involved in the shooting and would be called in for questioning.

Halfon served three years in prison after a 2003 conviction for smuggling cocaine into Israel from South America.

Meanwhile, in a separate incident on Thursday night, Uri Luzon, who is believed to belong to the ring of reputed crime boss Amir Mulner, was wounded in an apparent attempt on his life. A powerful explosion was heard around midnight near Ramat Gan's nightclub district; the blast later proved to have been a car bomb. Luzon and a second passenger were only lightly wounded. This is the second attempt on Luzon's life in two months, say the police.