Olmert: Haifa car bomb a terror attack for all intents and purposes
Prime minister says attack thwarted in northern city's mall Saturday evening may have originated in West Bank, 'where Hamas seeks to establish its infrastructure and status'. He warns of increased threats ahead of Passover, lauds citizen's alertness
"As far as Israel is concerned, this was a terror attack for all intents and purposes," the prime minister added. "The citizens' alertness and the police and security forces' quick response prevented a grave disaster.
"The State of Israel views this terror attack seriously. Initial investigations show that this was a terror infrastructure believed to be operating in the West Bank and aimed at causing a mass-casualty event," he noted.
"We mustn't kid ourselves. The attempted terror attacks in the State of Israel continued and continue, originating among other places in the West Bank, where Hamas seeks to establish its infrastructure and status. It seeks to do so by continuing on the road of terror and causing heavy damage to Israel's citizens," the prime minister added, expressing his appreciation for the security forces, the Shin Bet, the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said before the cabinet meeting that he was pleased that a combination of the citizens' alertness and a malfunction in the car bomb prevented a serious attack in Haifa.
Police sappers near booby-trapped car (Photo: Shai Vaknin)
The prime minister went on to warn of an increase in attempted terror attacks.
"The coming days before Passover are days during which the terror organizations implement their attempts to disrupt the holiday preparations. The security forces have been instructed and are fully alert. I call on the citizens of Israel to act this way as well."
Meanwhile, police and Shin Bet investigators are trying to determine how a car with 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of explosives was able to get into a mall parking lot in Haifa. Police were instructed to be on high alert and heightened deployment in northern Israel.
"Police presence was increased in crowded areas. We instructed security officers and guards at various centers to be more alert and instigate more thorough searches," one police officer told Ynet.
"It's probable that there will be checkpoints at the entrance to cities as this is part of a heightened alert. We ask the public to demonstrate greater awareness and patience," he said.
Lev HaMifratz is one of the largest malls in Israel's north and is located close to a main thoroughfare. It contains a train terminal and a medical center. Haifa's main bus station is adjacent to the complex.