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Wednesday, 16 August, 2000, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Inquiry into brothel fires
An investigator examines a burnt apartment
Seven cases of suspected arson have been reported
Israeli police have launched an investigation into a series of fires at Tel Aviv's sex enterprises, in which four women were killed.

Police commander Shlomo Aharonishky said they were trying to find out if ultra-orthodox Jews were involved in the attacks.


We are pursuing both the possibility of a business dispute and the possibility that ultra-Orthodox Jews are responsible

Police commander Shlomo Aharonishky

"We are pursuing a number of courses of enquiry, both the possibility of a dispute between the operators of these businesses and also the possibility that extremist ultra-Orthodox Jews are responsible, " he told Israeli television.

A gang of ultra-Orthodox Jews was behind a wave of attacks on erotica shops in Jerusalem in the 1970s, and in 1980s, another gang set ablaze billboards they considered offensive.

The latest series of attacks started last week on Tisha B'Av fast day, when religious Jews remember the disasters that have befallen their community.

Since then six other cases of suspected arson have been reported, but Tuesday's pre-dawn blaze at an apartment block was the first time lives were lost.

Two women were burned to death and two died of smoke inhalation in the incident.

Sex trade

Sex-trade has been growing in Israel over the last decade, with thousands of women from the former Soviet being lured into the trade.

The women are brought to Israel on promises of lucrative jobs and then forced into prostitution.

Tel Aviv police say that an estimated 100-150 brothels operate in the city, most of them out of apartment blocks.

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See also:

18 May 00 | Middle East
Israeli sex trade under fire
18 Feb 00 | Middle East
Training for a new life in Israel
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