A sophisticated ‘terrorist infrastructure’ is planning a mass attack on civilians in Israel after a botched attempt which could have killed hundreds.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says ‘a huge disaster was prevented’ in Haifa after a car packed with dozens of kilos of explosives did not explode.
Police say a passerby heard a small explosion in the car, thought to be the detonator going off.
It failed to ignite the rest of the device and police were called and defused it manually.
Authorities say the attack could have killed hundreds of civilians had it gone to plan.
Israeli shopping malls are protected from car bomb attacks because vehicles are searched on entry.
These attackers evaded inspection by parking the car outside the mall, but close enough to do massive damage if the device gone off.
The attempted attack is causing alarm here both because of the numbers of casualties it could have caused and the apparent sophistication of the group responsible.
The worst terror attacks in Israel have killed two or three dozen at the most.
That is far less than the number the Israeli Prime Minister claimed could have been killed in Haifa over the weekend
According to reports here, the attackers stole the vehicle number of another car to enable them to present licences had they been stopped and asked for them.
They also bought and stored substantial amounts of explosives and had the expertise to add bits of metal to create a shrapnel effect which would have killed and maimed more people.
A little known armed group called Liberators of the Galilee claimed responsibility for the attack.
Israeli newspapers are speculating about the possible involvement of Hizbollah, Lebanon’s Shiite militant movement.
Hizbollah has yet to fulfil its threat of retaliation for the assassination of one of its key commanders, Imad Mughniyeh, in a car bomb in Damascus widely blamed on Israel.
The anniversary of his death passed last month.
Dominic Waghorn, Middle East