Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, whose ministry oversees the Border Police, praised Border Policemen who prevented a suicide bombing attack by stopping the alleged bomber at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank on Friday.

“Your vigilance and professionalism led to the capture of a terrorist with an explosive belt,” Aharonovitch told the policemen in a phone conversation shortly after the Friday morning incident.

“You prevented an attack and saved lives, and I’m proud of you and your professional excellence,” he said.

The incident took place on Friday morning, when Border Policemen saw a Palestinian man, a 20-year-old Nablus resident, walking toward them at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank. The man was wearing a heavy coat, despite the 35-degree-Celsius heat (95 degrees Farenheit). The policemen called on the man to stop, at which point he lay down in the road.

The suspect then allowed policemen to remove his coat, revealing what looked like an explosive belt on his person. He admitted that it was indeed a bomb.

The man was arrested, and police sappers were rushed to the scene to neutralize the bomb. According to reports, the explosive belt was composed of 12 pipe bombs connected with electric wires.

Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch. (Photo credit: Flash90)

Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch. (Photo credit: Flash90)

IDF sources said their initial assessment was that the man was on his way to an attack, possibly against soldiers stationed nearby.

Later, Channel 2 news reported that the attack was planned for a city inside Israel. The TV report said it was not clear if the man himself was the intended bomber, or whether the bomb was to have been given to another assailant.

Israeli sources said he was apparently not operating as part of a formal Palestinian terror organization, but that a manhunt was underway in the West Bank for three men who are believed to have driven the would-be attacker to the checkpoint.

The attacker himself was taken for interrogation by the Shin Bet.

“This is a serious escalation in the attempt by Palestinians to harm innocent civilians,” said Gershon Mesika, chairman of the Shomron Regional Council, the local government of the area’s Jewish settlements. “It is clear that [the Palestinians'] intentions are not peaceful, and it’s time for the Israeli government to recognize this.”