Beyond Images - Briefing 4  Perspectives on the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
CLOSE TO CATASTROPHE AT PI GLILOT: Israel's largest fuel depot attacked by Palestinian group
London – published 21 July 2002, updated on 30 August 2002

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On May 23 2002, a Palestinian group attempted to blow up the Pi Glilot fuel storage plant in the northern outskirts of Tel-Aviv. If the plant had ignited, thousands of Israelis could have been killed in a catastrophic fireball.

Pi Glilot - a fuel plant packed with petroleum and gas products

• Pi Glilot is Israel's largest fuel storage facility. It stores thousands of tons of petroleum and gas products.

• It is situated on the outskirts of Tel-Aviv, close to one of the busiest traffic intersections in the country. Nearby are the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Aviv, an army base, and the well-known Country Club leisure centre.

The Bomb in Pi Glilot

• On Thursday 23 May 2002 a bomb, hidden on the underside of an arriving fuel tanker, exploded inside Pi Glilot.

• When the tanker drove into the plant and pulled up alongside eight other parked fuel tankers, the bomb was detonated by a remote control device.

• The bomb ruptured the vehicle, and flames spread into the driver's cab. However, the fire was extinguished by safety officials and drivers using vehicle sprinkler systems.

• At the moment of the explosion, the vehicle was being filled with diesel fuel. The blaze would have been more likely to spread, if more flammable gasoline fuel had been used instead.

• Security officials investigating the attack have concluded that the bomb was planted the previous evening while the tanker was unattended in a nearby parking lot.

• Investigators concluded that a terrorist detonated the bomb while watching the tanker enter Pi Glilot from a nearby vantage point, and that the explosion was timed to cause maximum devastation.

•In August, Israel arrested a 15-person Hamas cell based in East Jerusalem who are suspected of carrying out the Pi Glilot attack, and various suicide bombings in Jerusalem, including the Moment Cafe, and the Hebrew University attack.

What would have happened if Pi Glilot had exploded?

• Security experts believe that a major catastrophe was only narrowly averted.

• If the bomb had caused the fuel storage facilities to ignite in a chain reaction, they estimate that the resulting fireball could have destroyed everything within a 600 meter radius of the plant, killing "over ten thousand people".

• That this was avoided has been described as miraculous.

Review of Vulnerable Sites

• Pi Glilot has been closed. An urgent review of security is underway at this and at other sites which are considered by Israeli experts to be vulnerable to similar attacks.

• These sites include a chemical plant in Haifa, a power plant outside Hadera, a gas depot in Kiryat Gat, and a fuel storage facility in the Jerusalem suburb of Har Nof.

Conclusions by Beyond Images

• Since May 2002, Israeli forces have uncovered various plans by Palestinian groups to carry out what are being described as "mega-terror" attacks, aimed at causing massive loss of Israeli life (See Beyond Images Briefing 3 – Mega-Terror). These include:-

• the plan by a cell based in Qalkilya to blow up the Azrieli Towers in Tel-Aviv with a 1000 kilogram bomb; and
• bomb attacks on two passenger trains.

• Supporters of Palestinian rights need to understand the nature of the acts now being carried out in the name of the Palestinian people, condemn such actions and challenge the dangerous illusion that they progress the Palestinian cause.

• Similarly, commentators who routinely criticise the "excessive" measures taken by the Israeli army and intelligence agencies need to understand the extremely dangerous threats which Israel faces.

• Source of Information - Reports in the Jerusalem Post, 24-26 May 2002 (on Pi Glilot) and mid-June 2002 (various)


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