Analysis: 'Failed attack points to inexperienced terrorists'

Perpetrators may have been from West Bank.

police sappers haifa thwarted attack 248 (photo credit: Channel 10)
police sappers haifa thwarted attack 248
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Inexperienced terrorists sent by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or another established terror organization could be behind Saturday's failed car bomb attack on a Haifa mall, an expert on terror groups said on Sunday. Little concrete information has emerged due to a court-imposed media ban on the investigation, but questions are being raised over how the car carrying 100 kilograms of explosives was able to make its way to the scene without being intercepted. "It is difficult to identify the fingerprints of a certain organization in this attack," said Dr. Reuven Paz, founder and director of the Project for the Research of Islamist Movements at Herzliya's Interdisciplinary Center. "The large amount of explosives could indicate that an existing terror organization [such as] Hamas or Islamic Jihad is behind the bomb, but the error which occurred in the device could possibly show that the car bomb was prepared by people who lacked operational experience," Paz added, stressing that his comments were speculative. During the cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hinted that the attack likely originated from the West Bank, mentioning the area twice while commenting on the car bomb. "The State of Israel views this terror attack seriously. Initial investigations show that a terror infrastructure believed to be operating in the West Bank [was responsible] which aimed for a mass-casualty event," Olmert said during the meeting. "We must not kid ourselves. The attempted terror attacks in the State of Israel have continued and continue now. They originate from, among other places, the West Bank, where Hamas seeks to establish its infrastructure and status," Olmert added. Police have already announced that the Subaru vehicle used in the attack was registered to a woman from Jerusalem, adding that the car was stolen. Terrorists may well have exploited the fact that a substantial portion of the West Bank security fence remains unbuilt. The fence is now 620 kilometers long, with 130 kilometers still unbuilt due to financial constraints and a series of petitions by Palestinians challenging the fence's route. In 1994, eight Israelis were killed in a Hamas car bomb which targeted a bus in Afula. In 2002 a car carrying 650 kilograms of explosives was smuggled from the West Bank into northern Israel, before it was pounced on by counter-terrorism officers. Israeli officials said then that had the attack succeeded, the ensuing carnage would have altered the face of the Middle East. Two years before that, in Jerusalem's Mahaneh Yehuda market, two Israelis were killed in a car bomb attack carried out by Islamic Jihad. Two more civilians died when a car bomb was set off next to a bus in Hadera in the same year. That attack wounded 60 people. Several more car bombs were sent into Israel during the second intifada, though many such plots were foiled. A car bomb in the heart of Jerusalem's Mea She'arim neighborhood was safely neutralized in March 2001, for example. Some bombs went off, however, resulting in dozens of injuries. The Shin Bet and the IDF foiled a large car bomb plot, aimed at central Israel and originating in the West Bank, during Pessah of 2007.