Hundreds of police and border guards early Monday raided homes and businesses in the Galilee Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariyye, as they arrested dozens of members of a “protection mob” that had “clients” throughout Israel. According to police, the gang offered “protection” services to homeowners and businesses throughout the Galilee, promising to ensure that they would not experience damage – as those who refused to pay experienced. Farmers, contractors, factory owners and businesses who reported hundreds of thousands of shekels of damage to police, who were unable to stop the gang that had operated for years.
The gang was so feared that just the knowledge that it was protecting a business was enough to discourage petty thieves and others from robbing or damaging a “client,” police said, with many businesses forgoing security guards or other methods of protection in lieu of a sticker indicating that that business was protected by the gang. Those who violated the “rules” were made an example of by the gang.
An eight-month investigation into the group’s operations culminated in Monday’s raid. Some 27 people were arrested, and large numbers of vehicles, weapons and other items used by the gang for enforcement were gathered by police. In addition police found millions of shekels in undocumented cash, apparently much of it the money that was extorted from “clients.”
Israel Police Chief Roni Alsheich said at a press conference that “patience is the key” to breaking up gangs like this, and that police would eventually get to others that were operating in the same manner. In a statement, police called on all Israelis who are the victims of a protection scam to contact them. “The payment of these ‘fees’ do not help in the long run, as it just encourages the criminals to increase their demands,” police said. “We will continue to fight this phenomenon with all our resources.”
Overnight Sunday security officials said they arrested 18 wanted security suspects in other areas in Yehudah and Shomron. The suspects were wanted for participating in rioting and throwing stones and firebombs that endangered Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers. Several of the suspects were also charged with belonging to Hamas. All were being questioned on their activities by security forces.