jerusalem city center 29.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A suicide bombing was preempted Monday in downtown Jerusalem, after a 25-year-old Palestinian was caught carrying a bomb in a bag on a main city thoroughfare, police said.
The foiled attack raised concern that Palestinian terror organizations were planning to start a new wave of suicide bombings in major Israeli cities, and open a third front as the military faces off against Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon.
The male suspect, a single West Bank resident, was stopped midmorning for a routine security check on Jerusalem's Jaffa Road near city hall after police noticed him carrying a suspicious-looking bag.
The man, who had received the bomb in the morning in order to carry out the attack, was immediately handcuffed and arrested on the scene, after an estimated 5 kilograms of explosives were found in his bag, police said.
During his initial police interrogation, the suspect confessed that he was carrying a bomb and said that he came to the area to carry out a terror attack, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.
The Palestinian had planned to blow himself up in a suicide bombing, deputy Jerusalem police chief Shimon Koren later told reporters on the scene.
As he made his way to central Jerusalem, the suspect asked Arab passers-by where Jaffa Road was, and if Israeli security officials were located there, police said.
The major Jerusalem thoroughfare which runs from Jaffa Gate through the city center has been repeatedly targeted by Palestinian suicide bombers in the past.
The Palestinian previously worked at an Israeli restaurant in central Israel, but was currently unemployed.
It was not immediately clear why the suspect, who did not have a previous police record, became affiliated with one of the three major Palestinian terror organizations.
Police declined to cite which group the suspect was connected to, or to release his name or that of the northern West Bank village he came from, pending their ongoing investigation.
The police spokesman said that police had no warning of the impending attack.
After the suspect was apprehended, the bustling streets in the area were quickly closed off to traffic, as police sappers neutralized the explosives on the scene.
Shortly after the arrest, a police helicopter could be heard hovering in the air in an apparent effort to track any accomplices the suspect may have had, as well as to prevent further attacks.
Later in the afternoon the bomb was taken to an isolated location in the city to be destroyed.
Police were investigating how the would-be bomber managed to slip into Jerusalem.
In the past, suicide bombers have entered the capital through the city's porous northern border with the West Bank, where construction of the security fence is still ongoing.
Off-duty police officer Yisrael Habeisher, who first noticed the suspect, and the three Jerusalem policemen who stopped the would-be bomber, were expected to receive certificates of recognition for their work.
The three 20-year old policemen, Hillel Yitzhak, Tzach Tenenbaum, and Shaul Zitisky, are doing their mandatory military service in the Jerusalem police force.
Despite the escalating violence flaring throughout northern Israel over the last week, Jerusalem has remained eerily peaceful. But Israeli security officials have warned that Palestinian terror organizations would like to resume a wave of suicide bombings in major Israeli cities.
Hundreds of Israeli civilians have been killed in 125 Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel over the last six years.