(photo credit: )
The terror attack in Dimona Monday morning caught Southern District Chief Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev in Jerusalem, together with the rest of the senior staff of the Israel Police, at their weekly meeting.
Nevertheless, the attack was far from a surprise for the Southern District Police, who had anticipated just this scenario ever since Gaza residents - including a number of terrorists - had begun streaming across the Rafah border.
Although security forces said they did not have any specific information on the attempt to launch a terror attack against Dimona Monday, Southern District Police had already been on high alert the previous week due to the open crossing in Rafah - a status that will be maintained in the days following the Dimona attack.
"Our working assumption is that an additional attack is likely," Bar-Lev said Monday, hours after the bombing. "With the general situation Israel is in, the next terror attack is always just a question of time."
Following the morning bombing at the Dimona shopping center, Israel Police stationed police cars and set up temporary checkpoints at the entrances to Negev-area communities.
The Negev Subdistrict has been on alert for the past two weeks, out of concern that the region's towns posed attractive targets for terrorists from Gaza. In addition, the district is also an attractive target for terrorists originating in the West Bank, as it is home to the final 30-km. area that boasts no security fence that keep terrorists from the southern Hebron Hills from entering the area.
As a result, police presence was already heightened in the area's towns, with two companies of Border Police redeployed to Eilat, believed to be a particularly ripe target for a would-be terrorist.
Thousands of police officers, police volunteers, and even special units such as the Yamam and the Yasam were redirected to the district, some of them working undercover to gather intelligence.
Although Dimona was a relatively unlikely target, located some 60 kilometers across the desert from the Egyptian border, Bar-Lev noted that police nevertheless responded quickly to the bombing, and in doing so "prevented a far greater attack."
The members of the special unit that responded to the initial attack, and whose commander killed the second terrorist, had already completed a difficult mission in the Dimona area earlier that morning, arresting two drug traffickers and confiscating illegal weapons.
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