Echoes of the deadly “Second Intifada” resounded through the streets of Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv, yesterday, when a bomb on bus no. 240 exploded. Thank G-d, alert passengers and a quick-thinking bus driver averted tragedy and the bomb exploded after everyone was evacuated:
Disaster was narrowly averted in Bat Yam on Sunday, when a bomb detonated in the back of a bus in the city, shortly after over a dozen passengers were evacuated after it was spotted.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad “welcomed” the terror attack, but did not claim responsibility for the bombing, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.
In an official press release issued by Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, the organization welcomed the attack, that was a “response to the crimes of the occupation.”
An Islamic Jihad source said he hoped this attack “could usher the resumption of suicide attacks.”
The attack was “a sign that the Palestinian people no longer accept that Israeli attacks [against the Palestinians] continue without any real response,” the source told Ma’an.
Police are saying that while they are not yet sure if the motive was criminal or nationalistic, they are suspecting a terror attack.
Like in many past bombings in Israel, tragedy was prevented by the actions of everyday citizens, who helped clear other passengers away from the blast.
Passenger David Pappo described, in a shaky voice on Sunday afternoon, how he was on the bus when he heard a young boy mention a bag sitting near him unattended.
Pappo said he alerted the bus driver, who asked whose bag it was, but received no answer.
Pappo said he then opened the bag – which he described as large and black, with two handles – and found what he said looked like a pressure cooker with a red wire coming out of it. He said he started telling people to get off the bus, and when the driver stopped people started filing off.
Pappo said the bus driver appeared scared, and he told him “don’t worry, God is with us.”
He added “so this was my luck today, fine. What’s the saying, a man can earn his next life with one good deed?”
Like Pappo, the driver, Michael Yuger, refused to see his actions as extraordinary. He said he simply asked passengers if the bag belonged to anyone, arrived at a bus stop and told everyone to get off the bus.
Cmdr. Natan Bozna, head of the Ayalon subdistrict of the Israel Police, said that at 2:20 p.m. police received a call about a bomb on a bus in Bat Yam.
He said that two minutes later, a pair of patrol officers arrived. They started helping people get off the bus and away from the scene, but within minutes there was a powerful blast. Bozna said that a patrolwoman was lightly wounded in the blast, with light injuries to her ears caused by the sound of the explosion.
Bozna, as well as Bat Yam Mayor Shalom Lahyani, called on the public to increase their awareness on all buses, malls, trains and all other places where there are crowds.
Most of the windows were blown out of the bus, but it wasn’t a charred skeleton like in more powerful blasts of Israel’s past.
He added that police had not received any prior warning that security officials were expecting a terror attack in the area.
In wake of the bus blast, Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino ordered an increase in police presence in public places across the country. He called for public to increase awareness and notify the police of any suspicious packages.
“The incident in Bat Yam shows the threat of terror is always in the background, and in particular, in times like now, when there is an attempt to advance the peace process,” Danino said.
The blast was the first terrorist bombing in Israel since the November 21, 2012 bus bomb in Tel Aviv during the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip. That blast left dozens of people wounded, including three seriously.
Given what is going on in the wider Middle East, this bomb would appear to be a minor event. However, as the Police Chief Danino said, this shows that the terrorists never give up trying to attack and kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. It is important that attacks like these are reported in the media, so that when Israel finally reacts, it doesn’t appear to come out of the blue.
Was this bomb attack reported in your media? The BBC didn’t think it worthy of a mention, even though even a slightly wounded Palestinian gets headline news.
Thankfully this time the bomb was discovered in time, and kol hakavod to the alert passengers for their quick thinking. Keep in mind that the bomb was not safely defused – it exploded before the sappers had time to do so. We must not rest on our laurels complacently. Please stay alert and keep your eyes open , and report any suspicious packages.