Pregnant cop risks everything

Netanya bombing leaves dozens wounded, but residents remain intent on continuing life as usual.

mall bomb wreckage 298.8 (photo credit: Zaka)
mall bomb wreckage 298.8
(photo credit: Zaka)
First Sgt.-Maj. Shoshe Atiya, 39 finally broke down in tears when she arrived at Kfar Saba's Meir Hospital. She had been only four meters away from an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber when he detonated the explosives he was carrying Monday outside a Netanya shopping mall, killing five and wounding dozens more. Atiya took a blow to the head when she was knocked back by the blast, but it was neither her injury nor the blood-splattered scene of the attack that so upset this mother and police officer. "What really bothered me is that I could not grab the hand of the terrorist before he set off his bomb," said Atiya, lying in her hospital bed. Still, many credit her with saving the lives of many shoppers at The Sharon Mall. A little before 11:30 a.m., Atiya was riding in a squad car with two other police officers down Rehov Herzl when the driver of the vehicle in front of them reported a suspicious-looking man. The individual in question, Lotfi Abu Saada from the West Bank village of Illar, was tall, blonde and fair-skinned. "He didn't look Middle Eastern at all," noted Atiya. Abu Saada was, however, walking in a strangely robotic fashion and had his hand buried in a black video camera case. Atiya, who is pregnant, pursued the young man, who made his way to the nearby mall. When he cleared the barriers surrounding the front of the complex, Atiya shouted a warning to the three security guards at the doors. "I screamed 'Terrorist! Terrorist! Get his hand out of the bag,'" she recalled. People began to scatter. But Haim Amram, the security guard who intercepted Abu Saada, just led him away with a gentle push on the shoulder instead of trying to wrestle his hand from the bomb trigger. Atiya watched in disbelief as both Amram and the terrorist walked towards her. "The terrorist was waiting to detonate the bomb when he got close enough to me," she said, "and I planned to jump him and grab his hand." In the end, the bomber was just too quick. The security guard and three others were killed while Atiya escaped with minor injuries. This would not be Atiya's first close call with a bomb. She witnessed a half a dozen suicide bombings over the years and was lightly wounded in the 1996 attack near Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center, in which 13 people, including children in their Purim costumes, were killed. Atiya said she was not afraid throughout the events in Netanya, but another patient at Meir Hospital said that the officer's actions were not particularly heroic. Anatal Eden, 38, from the Sharon area town of Tzoran, was waiting for a lift from a friend at the corner of Raziel and Herzl when Atiya raised the alarm about the suicide bomber. "The police officer's hand was shaking when she told the mall guards to grab the terrorist. Why didn't she just shoot him - not to kill, just to incapacitate him?" Eden asked, as she sat balled up on her hospital bed. What everyone does agree on is that the death toll of the bombing could have been higher, much higher. With reporting by Matthew Gutman.