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The public transportation security unit, established during the second Intifada in order to prevent suicide terror attacks against Israeli buses, will be shut down due to the sharp decline in such attacks in recent years, Maariv reported on Thursday.
According to the report, a number of days ago commanding officers in the unit were given notice and were apprised of the decision to put an end to their activities as of September 1.
The report said sources in the Transportation Ministry attributed the closedown to the Finance Ministry, which reportedly cited the program's cost as the grounds for its termination. Bus companies such as Egged, as well as Israel Police, expressed their opposition to the shutdown of a unit that has been commended for its excellence in preventing attacks and generating deterrence amongst terror groups.
According to Egged spokesman Ron Ratner, the program's drain on the budget was far less substantive than the Finance Ministry claimed. "The cost of maintaining the unit's operations is only NIS 80m a year," he told Maariv. "We will act to prevent the unit's closedown."
"This is scandalous," a senior source within Egged told the newspaper, stating that a sense of security was also good for business. "In the past year and a half there has been a marked rise in the number of travelers who use public transportation - thanks to their sense of security."
"A pen pusher in the Finance Ministry, who last rode a bus when he was a little boy on a school field trip and has been driving an executive car ever since, hasn't an inkling of the essentialness of the unit to passengers' sense of security," he added.