Man gunned down as gangland crime wave rocks Israel

JERUSALEM Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:39pm EST

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Two gunmen on a motorcycle killed a man as he drove near Tel Aviv's bustling beachfront on Saturday, in what Israeli police suspected was the latest in a wave of gangland murders and attacks.

The drive-by shooting took place in broad daylight, as families and tourists walked nearby on the afternoon of the Jewish Sabbath.

This month alone, there have been three car bombings, two of them deadly, aimed at underworld figures, bringing back to the streets of Israeli cities the sounds of explosions that were once almost solely the hallmarks of Palestinian attacks during a 2000-2005 uprising.

Israel's Internal Defense Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, described the outburst of violence as "terrorism plain and simple" during a parliamentary address on Wednesday, stepping up pressure on police to catch the culprits.

Police said the man killed on Saturday was known to police, without going into further details.

"The murder is suspected to be part of a criminal turf war ... The shooters fled the scene in a getaway vehicle," the force said on Twitter.

"We heard the shooting when we were on our way here and couldn't believe it was happening so close to us," an Israeli woman called Dana told the Ynet news website.

A number of recent car bombs went off in residential neighborhoods, one of them exploding at night near a kindergarten. In November a device was detonated in the vehicle of an Israeli prosecutor who dealt with high-level criminals.

Briefing parliament this week, police said explosives were widely available and relatively cheap.

Police chief Yohanan Danino said most of the explosives used by criminals came from army stockpiles.

"This has been going on for years but the phenomenon is growing," he told reporters this week, adding that police were working with the military to prevent explosives reaching the streets.

(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Andrew Heavens)

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