Security officials were not surprised by the attempted suicide bombing in the heart of Israel Tuesday. "The calm in recent months is deceiving. There are constant attempts to launch terror attacks," they said.
During the past year, after numerous bombing attacks during the al-Aqsa intifada, a substantial drop was registered in the number of terror attacks. However, sources say that such attacks are still constantly being attempted, but are mostly foiled by security forces.
The terrorist who planned to blow himself up in Tel Aviv Tuesday is Omar Ahmed Abu al-Rob, a 24-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank village of Jilabun near Jenin. Al-Rob is a member of the Islamic Jihad. His cell was operating under Syrian guidance.
"This is a dangerous cell responsible for most of the serious suicide bombings that were carried out in the last two years," a defense official said.
A senior member of the al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad's military wing, told Ynet that although Tuesday's attack failed, more attacks were planned in the future.
"This is also a message to the American administration, its supporters and its collaborators, that if any harm comes to Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah, this will set fire to the region," the operative said.
He added that contrary to what al-Rob told the police, he was apparently supposed to carry out the bombing in a town in the Sharon region, and not in Tel Aviv.
'You don't always catch the terrorist at the last second'
Commander Aharon Ecsoll, who heads Tel Aviv's Ayalon precinct, said on Tuesday night that he had been warned by the Shin Bet in the early afternoon that there was a possible suicide bomber on the loose in Bat Yam.
Ayalon precinct forces were able to quickly locate the apartment the terrorist was hiding in and arrested the cell. "Luckily, we were able to prevent the attack, but in life you need a lot more than luck," said Commander Ecsoll.
"Once we got the alert, we brought in forces from all over the district, set up tactical command posts throughout the city and set up roadblocks downtown and at the exits," said Ecsoll, stressing that police here were very well versed in these procedures. "As we were doing this we were able to uncover the information that led us to the apartment the suspects were hiding in," he said.
"We got to the apartment; the police officers barged in and arrested the suspects, one of whom was the bomber. During questioning, he led the investigators to Rishon Lezion and the explosive belt he had left there earlier."
Ecsoll stressed that despite the quick police work, there are cases where the terrorist manages to blow himself up before he is caught. "To our great joy we managed to stop him, but unfortunately we don't always manage to catch him at the last second."
Avi Cohen and Ali Waked contributed to the report