Bat Yam bus bombers caught, were planning larger blast in Tel Aviv

4 West Bank Islamic Jihad members held for thwarted December 22 attack; 10 Bedouin also unwittingly involved; PM hails arrests, slams Abbas

Police and rescue personnel at the scene of an explosion on a Bat Yam passenger bus on Sunday, December 22, 2013. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Police and rescue personnel at the scene of an explosion on a Bat Yam passenger bus on Sunday, December 22, 2013. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Four Islamic Jihad operatives from Bethlehem were arrested in connection with the December bombing of a Bat Yam public bus.

Another 10 people, including several Bedouin Israeli citizens, were arrested for assisting in the operation, which ended with no injuries after an alert passenger noticed the bomb, authorities said.

News of the arrests was cleared for publication Thursday.

The four Islamic Jihad operatives were named as Yosef Salamah, 22, Sahaha Tamari, 24, Hamadi Tamari, 21 and Sami Harimi, 20. Sahaha and Hamadi Tamari, brothers, have both served time in Israeli prisons, and Salamah is a Palestinian Authority police officer.

According to the released documents, Harimi was smuggled from the West Bank to Jaffa on or around December 22 by Bedouin acquaintances, where he prayed in a local mosque and then was able to plant a bomb on Dan bus 240 heading south to Bat Yam. Security forces said that the Bedouin were unaware that Harimi was planning to carry out a terror attack.

The other three men built the explosive device, consisting of about 2 kilograms of explosives placed in a pressure cooker.

The terrorists placed a large amount of nails and screws inside the pressure cooker, which Harimi detonated remotely by cellphone.

The terrorists were planning a further, larger bombing in Tel Aviv, but were arrested before they could carry out another attack, a senior IDF official told Ynet News. A further 25 kg. of explosive material was confiscated during the arrests, he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday praised the security forces’ “quick action” in capturing the terror cell behind the attempted bombing.

Netanyahu noted in a statement that one of the suspects was “a Palestinian police officer,” which the prime minister said was “further proof of direct involvement of people in the Palestinian Authority in terror activity.

“The time has come for Mahmoud Abbas to cease celebrating with freed murderers, and lead his people to the way of peace,” he said.

The explosion badly damaged the bus and lightly injured a police sapper who was attempting to defuse the device. All the passengers had been evacuated from the bus minutes before, after the suspicious bag was discovered.

The explosion blew the windows out of the bus and charred the sides of the vehicle.

Police said it was the most serious attack inside Israel in more than a year, and urged the public to be on the alert for additional bombing attempts. Security forces set up a massive manhunt for the perpetrators and accomplices.

At the time Palestinian terror groups praised the attempted attack, but failed to take responsibility for the blast.

“This is the appropriate way to deal with Israel,” Ahmed al-Mudallal, a senior Islamic Jihad member, said in an interview on Al Aqsa TV. Al-Mudallal also threatened that the Palestinians are “on the verge” of resuming attacks against the “Zionist enemy.”

“We welcome the operation in Tel Aviv,” Hamas spokesperson Moshir al-Masri said in a message broadcast on Al Aqsa TV, the faction’s official station. “It comes as a response to all the actions the Zionists perpetrate daily.”

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