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 firstname.lastname@example.org