Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops fanned out midday Friday in hot pursuit of a terror cell that helped a Palestinian would-be suicide bomber attack an IDF checkpoint near Shechem.
Military authorities fear the cell, which they estimate to number three individuals, may be harboring another explosive device, to be used in a separate attack.
IDF sources said the cell provided the suspect, a Shechem (Nablus) – area resident, with clear instructions on how to perpetrate the attack at the busy Tapuach Junction, according to Israel’s Walla news site.
A senior source at the IDF Central Command told the Ma’ariv daily that they had no prior intelligence alerts that such an attack was in the offing.
The locale has been the site of numerous attacks against soldiers and Israeli civilians.
“It’s unclear if he belonged to any group,” the source said. The attack “comes on the anniversary of the killing of Evyatar Borovsky,” who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian at the same location in April of last year.
“The place is primed for such attacks, and I’m happy the troops were alert, and that they identified the suspicious behavior,” the source said.
The suspect, who appeared to be in his early to mid 20s and wore an overcoat in the 90 degree weather, according to a cellphone video shot from about 50 meters away, walked towards several soldiers standing at the traffic lanes.
Noting the bulky garment, which immediately alerted their suspicions, the Border Police officers ordered the suspect to get down on the ground and take off the coat. He followed their instructions, which exposed the pipe bomb vest he wore.
Sappers removed the vest, which they later safely detonated.
“Your vigilance and professionalism led to the capture of a terrorist with an explosive belt,” Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch told the unit in a telephone call later in the morning.
“You prevented an attack and saved lives, and I’m proud of you and your professional excellence,” he said.