Eighteen-year-old Salim Hamze was already dead by the time authorities arrived at the scene on Thursday morning, following multiple reports of what sounded like gunshots in an otherwise quiet western Sydney street. His father, Toufik, was slumped over in the utility truck beside him. Both men were sitting inside the vehicle in Guildford when they were ambushed by gunmen in the early hours. Police arrived on the scene around 9AM, and by 11AM, 64-year-old Toufik had also died from his injuries. He is the fourth member of his family to have been killed in just over a year.
New South Wales Police told VICE that homicide detectives have launched an investigation into the shooting, and that “officers from the [anti-gang] Raptor Squad have commenced proactive intelligence-based targeting of known members and associates of involved criminal networks.”
A burnt-out car was found near the site of the attack, and police are now hunting a high-powered Ford Mustang that was also seen nearby.
“Shortly after that vehicle was set on fire, a grey or dark-coloured Ford Mustang sedan two-door was seen leaving that location,” NSW Police state crime command director, Detective Chief Superintendent Darren Bennett, told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. “The police are very interested in speaking to the occupants of that vehicle or anyone who may have seen that vehicle.”
“This is another appalling crime in a long list of gangland-style shootings that have taken place in south-west Sydney,” he added.
Multiple news reports have suggested that the attack could be the latest escalation of an ongoing gang war between the Hamzes – also spelled Hamzy – and the rival Alameddine family; a feud that has claimed multiple lives across Sydney since last October.
VICE is not suggesting that the Alameddine family is responsible for Wednesday's shooting.
The spate of killings began in October last year, when Mejid Hamzy, brother of notorious gang leader Bassam Hamzy, was shot dead outside his home in Condell Park, just south of Guildford. Bassam, who is currently incarcerated at an Australian Supermax prison, is the founder of Brothers 4 Life: a crime gang that has been linked to a string of shootings, killings and violent territorial disputes in Western Sydney over the past 10 years. Even from behind bars, Bassam is thought to have orchestrated a series of extortions, murders, shootings, and kneecappings. Two men were later charged in relation to Mejid’s death.
Two months later, police lawyers obtained a Supreme Court order to restrict the freedoms of the Alameddine and Hamzy families, banning members from visiting certain other parts of Sydney in a bid to curb any tit-for-tat violence between them. Barrister Lachlan Gyles SC said at the time that “The risks to the public continue to escalate [and] if these orders aren't made then the violence will continue.”
In June of this year, Bassam’s cousin and underworld boss Bilal Hamze was also killed in what police described as a “brutal, execution-style murder” in Sydney's CBD. Detectives say they’d warned Bilal in the months before his death that he had a bounty on his head.
“That advice was not received in the sense it was given,” said Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow, commander of the gangs squad, following his death. “He sought to live his life the way he wanted to and made some choices.”
Critchlow further noted that there was “a substantial risk of reprisals.”
Follow Gavin Butler on Twitter.