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No Explosives Found, Suspects Still Held in Be'er Sheva

Be'er Sheva police found no explosives but are still holding three suspects they believe may have planned to attack the Be'er Sheva bus station.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 1/3/2010, 1:21 PM / Last Update: 1/3/2010, 1:30 PM

Israel Police say they have found no explosives but are continuing to interrogate three suspected terrorists who were stopped after they refused to allow a security guard to search their backpacks at the Be'er Sheva central bus station Sunday at noon.

An alert security guard prevented what police suspect may have been an attempted attack when the two suspicious-looking young men and a woman in their late teens or early 20’s, tried to enter the bus station carrying large backpacks and bags. They were stopped at the large green iron gates by security guards and asked to open the packs and bags for a search, but refused, and instead turned to run.

“They were arguing with him,” an eyewitness who asked to remain anonymous told Israel National News. "They didn't want him to search their bags." Civilians in the bus station also suspected them said the eyewitness, because one of them had left a bag behind raising eyebrows of the people watching.

Israel Police spokesman Mickey Rosefeld told Israel National News that security officials found no explosives in their bags. However, he added, "they are still being held and are being questioned by Israel Police and Israel Security Agency personnel." He could not say when or if they would be released, nor would he say whether the police were still looking for other suspects, nor was he willing to say that the three were no longer being considered as terror suspects themselves.

Sources said intelligence officials had received a credible tip of a possible attempt to carry out a terror attack in the area.

"There are many suspects in the immediate area around the central bus station," he had said earlier. "There are high suspicions that they may have been attempting to carry out a terror attack. There are a number of security measures being carried out in the area, and it will be some time before the investigation is completed," he added. "The area has been cordoned off, and police are making very sure that the public is being kept safe." 

According to a police official quoted in an interview on Voice of Israel government radio, the three were Palestinian Authority Arabs residing illegally in Israel. Extra security personnel have been sent to the central bus station, a busy hub connecting all bus lines feeding into and out of the southern region, and the area has been sealed off. All bus service in and out of the central bus station has been stopped for the time being, as has train service at the Israel Railways station located next door. Police said they expect service to be restored sometime later in the day.

Past Terror Attacks in Be'er Sheva
The Be'er Sheva central bus station has been the scene of several attacks by terrorists in southern Israel within recent years.

On August 28, 2005, two security guards were seriously wounded in the line of duty after having stopped a suicide bomber from blowing up the bus station. The terrorist had attempted to board a bus, but was stopped by the guards, who suspected and stopped him, at which point he detonated the explosives belt he was wearing. Shrapnel ripped through their bodies as well as his own, killing him and wounding them seriously. More than 50 others were evacuated to nearby Soroka Medical Center, the terrorist's apparent target, for treatment, most suffering minor injuries and shock.

There was also a double suicide bombing in Be'er Sheva a year earlier, in August 2004. At least 16 people died in that attack.