Beyond Images - Briefing 3 Perspectives on the Arab-Israeli Conflict
London – published 12 July 2002

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The United States is anxious about the possibility of future attacks on the scale of the September 11 attacks. Certain European countries are beginning to be aware of the threat of such attacks against them.
For Israel, the prospect of large-scale terror attacks is not speculative scare-mongering. Mega-terror is being perpetrated now, and it is only a combination of vigilance by Israel's security forces, and miraculous good fortune, which have prevented disastrous results. Critics of Israel's security policies need to understand the nature of the dangers it is facing.

The terrorism of the last 21 months has cost Israel nearly 600 lives, and untold suffering. And, as if that were not enough, Palestinian groups are now attempting so-called "mega-terrorist" attacks aimed at causing massive devastation and loss of civilian life. Only the vigilance of the Israeli security forces, and sheer good fortune, have thwarted these efforts. Here is a list of key recent attacks (as reported in the Jerusalem Report, the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz):

·        Bomb plot against Israel's biggest skyscraper: In early May 2002, Israeli security forces arrested a Palestinian group, based in Tulkarem, which had been planning to plant a 1000 kilogram bomb in the basement of the Azrieli twin skyscrapers in Tel-Aviv. 

·        Bomb attacks on crowded passenger trains: In mid-May a bomb went off by a passenger train near Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael.  A similar incident occurred on a train track outside the Israeli town of Lod in late-June.  The intention in each case was presumably to derail if not destroy the targeted trains.

·        Bomb attack on a huge oil and gas depot:  On May 23 2002 a bomb was detonated by remote control inside the Pi Glilot gas and oil depot on the northern outskirts of Tel-Aviv.  The resulting fire was extinguished but if it had caused a chain reaction the depot could have exploded, costing thousands of lives.  (See Beyond Images Briefing 5 – Close to Catastrophe)

·        The use of massive bombs:  The car bomb attack in early June on a passenger bus in Megiddo, which  incinerated the bus and killed 20 Israelis, was not carried out by a suicide bomber carrying the weapon, but by means of a car loaded with hundreds of kilograms of explosive. Such attacks do not merely kill and maim, but turn their target into a fireball.  A few days earlier, IDF soldiers detected and defused a 400lb bomb planted by the Gaza Strip Jewish settlement of Alei Sinai - a device capable of causing vast devastation if it had detonated.

·        Coordinated attack on 7 coastal Israeli cities: Another Palestinian group intercepted by Israel as part of Operation "Defensive Shield" was reportedly planning a synchronised sequence of attacks on seven coastal Israeli cities; and

·        Triple bomb plan in Jerusalem: Another Palestinian group which was broken up was apparently planning a triple bomb attack in Jerusalem (presumably similar to the triple bombing of the main pedestrian mall of central Jerusalem which took place in August 1997) 

Comment from Beyond Images

The plans which Israel has thwarted in recent months have aimed to kill thousands of Israeli citizens in premeditated and carefully orchestrated attacks.

Israel's critics outside the country should be cautious in describing Israeli security measures as "excessive".  Against such dangers, who is to measure what is or is not a "proportionate" response? 


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