Panic at the port: Imagine a typical afternoon at Tel Aviv's Port, as masses of visitors pack local coffee shops and restaurants. Suddenly, an alert citizen notices a man walking suspiciously and laying a mysterious box under a car. She calls the police, and shortly thereafter panic ensues at the waterfront - All this indeed happened Monday, because of a training exercise gone awry.
Three employees at one of Israel's security agencies involved in the embarrassing incident have been suspended, Ynet has learned. However, authorities are keeping mum on the subject.
"My window looks directly out to the parking lot," Niva Ben-Harush, a course coordinator at Habetzefer Advertising School told Ynet. "I saw this young man. After I called the police it was simply unbelievable. Within 15 minutes, they closed off the entire area and evacuated all the people from the port. "
"At a certain point, the police asked me to go out and take a look with them to see if I could identify the man who laid the suspected bomb," she said. "But after a few minutes, they told me it was just a drill. It was very stressful. It looked like someone connected with the crime world."
As it turns out, an agent in training, who was supposed to plant a dummy bomb under a car as part of his course, was the source of the mix-up. Beyond the embarrassment caused and the drill's failure, some people apparently paid for the damage out of their own pockets.
'People left without paying'"After the police were dispatched to the location, they responded with lightening speed," Micha Tzul, owner of one of the port's restaurants, told Ynet. "They blocked all the entries to the port and evacuated all the patrons from my restaurant."
The incident happened a bit after 2:30 pm, when the restaurant was filled with its lunch crowd. According to Tzul, many people didn't come back to pay for their meals.
"At a certain point, when the police took out the robot to neutralize the bomb, a man jumped out and said that he is from a government agency and that it was just a drill. I spoke to this man and told him that he caused me damage, but he refused to identify himself. He took my phone number and the manager's phone number. However, in the meantime, no one has contacted me," asid Tzul.
In the past, there have been reports of agents in Israel's operational security agencies holding drills throughout Israel during their training. According to these reports, the drills include collecting intelligence and various operational activities while putting together a cover story.
The Prime Minister's Office issued the following statement: "We do not respond to information about such activities untertaken by security agencies or attributed to them."