In an afternoon press conference yesterday, Israeli police described how a large-scale terror attack was prevented in Haifa on Saturday night. They described a car containing 220 lbs. of explosives, found parked in a parking lot near a Haifa shopping center, which was discovered when one of the bombs detonated.

No one was injured in the blast. Police are in the process of learning whether the car, which was registered to a female Jerusalem resident, had been stolen.

Thousands of people were in that Haifa shopping mall at that time, mulling about the stores, restaurants and movie theaters.

The police swiftly sealed the parking lot and called in the sappers (bomb squad).

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It took the sappers a long time to defuse the bomb. Meanwhile, other police forces sealed all access to the mall, scoured the area for additional bombs and evacuated the thousands of people from the stores, restaurants and movie theaters. Many people panicked during the evacuation, which was carried out in keeping with standard Israeli emergency regulations. Had the first bomb not prematurely detonated, matters could have potentially been a lot worse.

The Israeli police spokespeople said that they believe that the attack had been intended to have been carried out on Saturday night when the mall was packed with visitors.

Israeli police are examining a number of possible angles in their investigation.

One avenue of investigation is whether the intention was that the bombs that were found in the car were supposed to have been divided up among a number of terrorists who were then to take them into various parts of the mall and other locations in northern Israel.

“We had a really big miracle here that they succeeded in neutralizing the bomb that was in the car,” a police sapper said. “If, God forbid, the bomb had gone off, the entire body of the car and its engine would have become pieces of metal shrapnel that would have been blown dozens if not hundreds of [feet] from the site of the explosion. That could have caused destruction and the death of lots of people in a large radius from the site of the explosion.”

Yesterday, a heightened state of alert was declared in the Israel Police Northern District lest there be another attempted attack in the area under the district’s supervision. The state of alert was also raised in all malls across northern Israel. All day yesterday, helicopters hovered in the air of northern Israel while roadblocks were setup in an attempt to try to ward off terrorists.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.