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24.04.2014
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Passenger vigilance foils terror attack on bus near Tel Aviv
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Yoav Limor

Alarm bells going off

Lady Luck smiled on Bat Yam on Sunday. Take away a fraction of the passengers' vigilance and this morning's headlines would have tallied a terror attack's casualties and fatalities. The bomb in question was a relatively small one, but in the confinements of a crowded bus the blast would have been lethal.

It is highly likely that this was not the work of a lone individual. Unlike the majority of terror attacks that have taken place over the past few months in Judea and Samaria, Sunday's attack appears to be the work of a terror cell: someone had put the explosive device together and someone had smuggled it into Israel, plant it on the bus and flee.

This was the work of at least two people, perhaps more, and perhaps they were part of a larger infrastructure, a cell which is planning future attacks. The immediate concern of security forces on Sunday was that the device might have been one in a series of bombs set to explode in different locations across the country.

The defense establishment has been hunting for a lead since Sunday afternoon. If the explosives were detonated using a cell phone, than a possible lead is already evident; and while the details themselves are under a gag order, the nature and composition of the explosives are a lead in and of themselves.

Between these leads, the available intelligence and potential arrests and interrogations, authorities will get to the bottom of this incident quickly.

The last time we saw an explosion aboard a bus -- on Nov. 21, 2012, the last day of Operation Cast Lead -- the perpetrator was arrested at his home, in the Palestinian village of Beit Liqya, near Ramallah, the very same day.

On one hand, such swift action is an indication of the Shin Bet's reach inside the Palestinian territories. On the other hand, Sunday's attack was a Shin Bet failure. The investigation into the explosion in Bat Yam will have to determine why the preparations leading up to the attack were not discovered.

Unlike in cases involving a lone terrorist whose actions are nearly impossible to predict, a terror cell has several members and many potential intelligence "suppliers." A cell means chatter, and chatter provides intelligence that in turn provides opportunities to foil attacks.

Regardless of the ongoing investigation, Sunday's attack once again presented Israel with the question of what exactly is going on in Judea and Samaria. The situation has yet to escalate to an intifada, but nevertheless, the situation on the ground today is thoroughly different than the one that presented itself merely six months ago.

Even if the latest string of terror attacks is nothing more than a coincidental grouping of sporadic incidents, as the Shin Bet and the military claim, it is obvious that something is going on. The intelligence indicates that the overall picture is changing.

This picture, however, remains unclear. Israel says that not only is the Palestinian Authority not responsible for these attacks -- it has no interest in them, as the Palestinian people do not want any escalation that might result in a "Palestinian spring," which would only leave them worse for wear.

Still, the alarm bells are sounding more often and this trend is only likely to grow, presenting us with a new situation.

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