Israel recently requested from the Merkavim factory 71 bullet resistant vehicles for a total amount of NIS 106 million, due to the continued wave of terrorism in the West Bank and renewed shooting attacks. This is the largest transaction for the purchase of bullet-resistant buses ever in Israel.
Mars Defender model buses were requested by Egged and all other transportation companies of the regional councils in the West Bank, where the Defense Ministry participates in financing the cost for the extra protection. The price of each armored bus stands at NIS 1.5 million – almost twice than the price of a regular bus.
Aftermath of 2015 bus shooting in Jerusalem (Photo: AFP)
Some buses will replace the old armored buses that have become obsolete, while also increasing the number of armored buses and the frequency of travel on high-risk routes in the region around Jerusalem, the Binyamin communities, Hebron, and Gush Etzion. The low frequency of buses is one of the factors for extensive hitchhiking in the West Bank, which increases the risk of kidnappings. Following the abduction and murder of three boys -- the late Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah -- in June 2014, Transportation Minister Israel Katz decided to integrate armored buses in the bus routes of the local councils to transport students, but this was a temporary measure to close the gaps.
The armored bus was developed in Israel based on a Volvo chassis with a double rear axis in order to support the weight of armor. The outer shell, roof and floor were built according to military specifications and are protected by steel, while the windows are made of bullet-resistant glass. The protection can block 7.62 mm caliber armor-piercing bullets, grenades and explosive charges. A special defensive system for the wheels and tires allow the bus to continue traveling away from the point of attack. Two emergency doors are easily opened, allowing for a quick getaway from the bus under attack.
Each bus contains 53 seats. In the past 20 years Merkavim has produced 400 bullet-resistant buses, including 150 of the current model.
Meanwhile, the Tax Authority has revealed an affair involving the import of 5,500 tons of cement to the Gaza Strip, apparently partially intended for building tunnels. The Magistrates Court in Rishon Lezion ordered over the weekend the arrest and release on bail of three parties involved in the transaction. Among the three are a senior executive in the concrete manufacturing company, a customs broker, and contractor from northern Israel whose company transferred the concrete to the PA’s territories.
According to the arrest warrants, the Mashav company, which deals in concrete, was responsible for the sale of cement to the the Palestinian Authority. Authorities suspect that Mashav made an agreement with a Palestinian Authority to important concrete from Turkey and transfer it to the Gaza Strip.