Tel Aviv, Israel – Tel Aviv District Police Commander David Tzur said that a large terror attack was prevented on Tuesday night in Tel Aviv, judging from the amount of explosives found in the bag concealed by the terrorist in Rishon Letzion, a suburb of the city.
It was a race against the clock after Israeli intelligence learned that the terrorist strapped with bombs to his chest was already on his way to detonation in a crowd of people at a pedestrian mall.
Hundreds of police officers, police sappers and intelligence agents were sent in pursuit of the terrorist and his bomb late in the afternoon yesterday. It was not until nearly 8:00 p.m. before everyone could let out a sigh of relief. The bomb, which contained a large number of kilograms of explosives, was found inside a garbage bin off the Rishon Lezion pedestrian mall.
The Arab terrorist left his village, Jilaboun, which is in the Jenin district, at approximately 7:00 in the morning. The terrorist, who belongs to Islamic Jihad terrorist group in Jenin, was equipped with a bag that contained a bomb belt. He made his way with the assistance of a Palestinian driver out from Jenin southwards into Samaria. From there, the terrorist succeeded in infiltrating Israel by means of a route that has yet to be established. The assessment is that he passed the separation fence via one of the roadblocks that are designated for Israelis.
Late in the morning, Israeli intelligence agents received an intelligence warning about a terrorist who was already in the Tel Aviv area.
Within minutes, a maximum state of alert was declared by the Tel Aviv District Police. The district commander, Cmdr. David Tzur, ordered the officers to set up roadblocks on all of the roads leading to the southern part of the city.
Dozens of police officers were called from their homes, and the search for the terrorist began from southern Tel Aviv on into the northern neighborhoods of the city. Shortly after 6:00 in the evening, the Israeli police obtained information that the terrorist was in an apartment in Bat Yam, a northern suburb of Tel Aviv.
Central Bat Yam looked like the scene of a terror attack on Tuesday. Dozens of ambulances, fire trucks, police cars and sappers dressed in flak jackets and helmets began to roam the streets. The police arrested the terrorist along with three other Arab Palestinian residents of the Jenin district, one of whom was a 16-year-old boy.
Initially, the police officers searched for the bomb belt inside the apartment, but when the search turned up nothing, it became clear to the agents that they had a “ticking bomb” situation on their hands.
The four Palestinians were separated and were taken to a police building in the area. The detectives tried to find out where the bomb belt was located. The police were worried that a passer-by might touch it accidentally, setting it off and costing human life. Initially, the terrorist told the detectives that he planted the bomb belt inside a garbage bin in the Rishon Lezion area. A state of alert was immediately declared around the city and its center was sealed to traffic. Hundreds of policemen began to sweep the pedestrian mall and the nearby public parks. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv District Police Commander Cmdr. David Tzur ordered to stop all movement of garbage trucks in the greater Tel Aviv area, and dozens of police officers were dispatched to Hiriya [the central garbage dump that serves the greater Tel Aviv area], just in case the bomb had already made its way to the dump.
Meanwhile, Israeli intelligence agents continued questioning the terrorist. Around 7:30 p.m., the terrorist finally agreed to cooperate with the intelligence agents, and led the detectives to the garbage bin on Asher Levin Street, which is near the Rishon Lezion pedestrian mall, where the bomb was hidden.
Local policemen evacuated 10 high-rise residential buildings in the area, and blocked numerous roads in the central part of the city so as to allow for the bomb to be neutralized. Sappers decided ultimately not to defuse the bomb in the city center lest it hurt anyone or cause property damage, and instead loaded it into a special armored truck that was constructed to transport explosives.
Hezbollah’s Weapons Waiting At Syrian Border
Hezbollah currently holds over 10,000 short-range rockets in southern Lebanon and north of the Litani River, Israeli officials estimate. Most of the rockets have been there since before the war, when Hezbollah had between 12,000-14,000 short-range rockets. Additional weaponry is being smuggled from Syria to Lebanon, as of now, in a very slow and controlled manner due to restrictions that the Syrians have imposed on themselves for fear of becoming entangled.
Hezbollah’s truly large stockpiles are located throughout Syria.
Those stockpiles contain ammunition in amounts exceeding those held by the organization on the eve of the war. At a time which will serve the interest of the Syrians and Hezbollah, the dam will be broken, and the controlled flow of weapons will become a deluge.
This stockpile does not refer only to short-range rockets. Israel assumes that medium and long-range rockets have already been smuggled into Lebanon, more advanced than those previously held by Hezbollah. The Syrians have recently purchased Russian anti-tank rockets more advanced than the Kornet rockets that the IDF encountered in the war – and they too will reach Lebanon.
The Iranians also supplied the Syrians with anti-ship missiles of the type that hit INS Hanit during last summer’s war. The pattern of the Iranian Navy is to attack Western vessels by means of several dozen small armed boats simultaneously. Israel should prepare for this method to reach Lebanon as well.
Hezbollah is patiently waiting for the equipment arriving in Syria from Iran by air, sea and land. Its main lesson from the latest war was this: Not enough rockets were fired into Israel. The average daily dose, 250 rockets, one-third of which fell in inhabited areas, was not sufficient. Hezbollah intends to double and triple this amount. If Israel attempts to intercept 1,000 rockets a day using Rafael systems, it will go bankrupt within a week.
In the meantime, Hezbollah is reorganizing in its logistic area of Baalbek, in its strategic center in Beirut and in its operative area in southern Lebanon. As of now, the infrastructure in southern Lebanon is still not prepared for fighting against Israel at familiar levels. But the basis of this infrastructure – personnel, bunkers, launching grounds, command and control centers – that was destroyed in the war is gradually being rebuilt. In the villages in southern Lebanon, work can presently be observed for rebuilding headquarters, command and control networks and long-range observation posts. Conversely, there are sectors, such as Mt. Dov, where the infrastructure was only damaged partially, if at all.
For now, Hezbollah is finding it difficult to reach the blue line [international border], to carry out observations and gather intelligence. The new UNIFIL is doing a better job than did the old UNIFIL. But as soon as the political conditions are created that will enable Hezbollah to shift gears in southern Lebanon, Israel will start to hear that the organization is harassing the U.N. personnel – to the point that their parent countries will send them back home. From Israel’s standpoint, this will be a sign attesting to the fact that Hezbollah is becoming ready for another round. Israeli officials assess that the first signs of harassment could appear within a few months.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il.
©The Bulletin 2007