Security guards avert disaster
Suicide bomber strikes outside central bus station in southern town of Be'er Sheva Sunday morning; bus driver suspects terrorist, informs security guards. Bomber detonates himself prematurely after being spotted; two guards seriously wounded, close to 50 people treated for shock
(VIDEO) Security guards avert disaster: A suicide bomber detonated himself outside the central bus station in the southern town of Be'er Sheva around 8:30 a.m. Sunday. Two guards sustained serious injuries in the attack and close to 50 people were treated for shock.
Palestinian sources told Ynet the suicide bomber who carried out the attack was identified as 25-year-old Ayman Zaakik, of the Palestinian village Beit Omar, near Hebron.
Zaakik, an Islamic Jihad member, was previously imprisoned in Israel for five years, they said.
However, Israeli security officials said the identity of the attacker remains unclear at this stage.
One of the wounded guards was identified as Lawi Abu Jama'a, a 26-year-old Bedouin and a married father of two. The other injured guard, who is in his 20s, was identified as Pavel Srotzkin.
Be'er Sheva bombing aftermath (Video: Reuters)
The bus station was slightly damaged thanks to quick action by security guards, who approached the terrorist and averted a more devastating disaster. The bomber arrived at the bus station and attempted to board one of the buses there before detonating himself.
Bus driver Nissim Horesh said the terrorist approached him and asked whether he was heading to the hospital.
"I told him I don't stop there…I suspected him, as he was carrying a heavy backpack and had a plastic bag in his hands. I directed the security guard's attention to him. The guard arrived, maintained eye contact with the terrorist, and called over another guard. Then, the blast occurred."
The first paramedic at the scene, Yaron Barel, told Ynet: "I found two security guards who sustained serious injuries…they prevented a disaster with their bodies."
Treating the wounded in Be'er Sheva (Photo: Yosef Buskila)
The wounded were taken to Soroka hospital in the city. Soroka's director Eitan Hai-Am told Ynet: "Two seriously wounded victims arrived with their bodies filled with shrapnel. It appears they are the central station's security guards."
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon slammed the Palestinian Authority for failing to take steps to curb terror attacks.
"Israel has taken necessary steps to advance the peace process with the Palestinians. The Palestinians have not taken the necessary steps to prevent terror against Israel. Without such steps, there cannot be progress between both sides," David Baker said.
Police set up roadblocks
Haim Aviv, 32, who resides near the bus station, told Ynet he woke up because of a "huge blast."
"Everyone heard the sound and called to ask what's going on. The entire area, the station and the mall were rocked," he said.
Following the blast, large police and rescue forces were dispatched to the scene. Meanwhile, police forces set up roadblocks and sealed off the exits from Be'er Sheva in search of suspects. Officials suspected a vehicle escaped the scene following the attack, possibly carrying the bomber's accomplices.
Notably, the Be'er Sheva station is usually heavily crowded with civilians and soldiers in the morning. Be'er Sheva's mayor Yaakov Terner told Ynet following the attack: "Terrorism is a story that doesn't end and needs to be addressed on the diplomatic level."
Meanwhile, security officials are trying to find out which terror group is behind the suicide bombing. Terrorists recently vowed to avenge the death of five Palestinians in an IDF operation in the West Bank town of Tul Karem last week. Officials have also raised the terror alert level across the country in the wake of Sunday's attack.
The bombing, which comes exactly a week after the Gaza and northern West Bank pullout has been completed, marks the first major terror attack in a month and half, following the last suicide bombing in the coastal town of Netanya.