An Overview and Lessons Learned
A high alert was declared in the Jerusalem area at around 11:30am, Tuesday, March 21, 2006, after the domestic Shin Bet intelligence service received a tip-off that militants in a blue van had infiltrated from the West Bank and were planning to carry out an attack in an unknown Israeli city.
Following a dramatic high-speed chase, Jerusalem police on, intercepted a van on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway transporting a Palestinian suicide bomber on his way to carry out an attack in the center of the country, Jerusalem police chief Ilan Franco said. The van was stopped midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv near Kibbutz Sha’alabim with ten Palestinians inside and a bag containing seven kilograms of explosives.
The would-be bomber, an Arab man in his 20s from the West Bank village of Yamoun, is affiliated with the Islamic Jihad, Franco said.
Tuesday’s high-speed drama, foiled a potentially devastating bombing just days before national elections. The incident began shortly after noon when police, aided by a police chopper, gave chase to the vehicle, a GMC van, as it left the city just one hour after a red alert went into effect in Jerusalem about an impending terror attack. The van, which was driven by an east Jerusalem resident, was transporting illegal Palestinians. The driver of the van, who aroused the suspicions of police, ignored orders to stop the vehicle and a high-speed highway chase ensued. The police, their weapons drawn, eventually surrounded the van, which was stopped in traffic due to multiple roadblocks erected by police on the highway, were able to arrest all 10 men inside the vehicle. During the arrest, police ordered all the passengers to strip and lie on the ground as police searched their bodies for explosive belts. Ambulances rushed to the scene, fearing the occupants would try to detonate the explosives. Police sappers neutralized the explosives on the scene.
Dissemination of information
The summarized scenario includes many lessons learned and good practices that law enforcement agencies and security forces at all levels can review and adapt to their own agency. In this incident, similar to other incidents in Israel in the past, intelligence was received and disseminated down to the local precincts for their response and interdiction. The dissemination of information between the agencies is an imperative tool for interdicting the bombers and their supporters before the explosive device is detonated. In this instance, immediately upon reception by the security agencies of such an imminent attack, Jerusalem police units, primarily patrol units, were mobilized in an operational plan for such an incident. Being that the bomber is inbound; an attempt must be made to interdict the bomber as far away from the population as possible. The flow of information between the agencies is a tool that will enable all security forces (a force multiplier) to search for the unknown bomber.
The response by Law Enforcement
Immediately upon receiving the intelligence, law enforcement initiates an operational plan that is geared towards containing a bomber to a particular location and in turn “pushing” the adversary to a point where law enforcement can interdict and make contact with the adversary. The erections of checkpoints are used for such a tactic along with other counter terror techniques that can not be discussed for operational security reasons. As a result of Israel’s history with terrorism, the patrol officers in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem, have been trained both in a law enforcement capacity, but also hold a dual role as a counter terror unit that can interdict on its own and mitigate or defuse many adversarial schemes of maneuvers. The response by any tactical unit will always take longer in comparison to the patrol units already on the street.
With the checkpoints erected in the predetermined strategic locations throughout the city, the suspicious vehicle was identified and the terrorists apprehended. It is not enough to simply control the entrances and exits to the city while awaiting the arrival of the adversary. Understanding the tactic of the adversary and the targets the enemy has chosen in the past, law enforcement must consider securing locations where the bomber may target. Taking into consideration that the bomber was able to bypass the overt checkpoints established based on the intelligence that was disseminated to law enforcement, the command should increase the presence of both covert and overt officers at assets where the bomber may target. These sites include the highly populated areas, transportation venues, Center City, business districts, hospitals and other sites within the jurisdiction.
The initial minutes of an incident of this nature are critical in the success of law enforcement. By educating law enforcement and security personnel on all levels of the command structure as to the techniques of the adversary and the phases that the adversary must go through to be successful, will assist law enforcement and security forces in identifying the earlier phases of an attack. In this incident, law enforcement understood that the transport of a potential bomber would be done by a vehicle that was transporting other Palestinian workers to different sites throughout the country. Immediately upon receiving the intelligence alert, law enforcement needs to implement preplanned and tested responses to secure the sites where the adversary may cross. Flexible and speedy responses with command directly supervising and managing the response would expedite and intervention, potentially resulting in a successful detection and interdiction of the bomber.
Considering operational security and the disclosing of intelligence secrets to personnel without clearance, law enforcement can disseminate the information in a format that can be passed on to private security forces. Based on the information relayed to relevant private entities, security managers would be able to initiate an elevated threat level with responses that may include the hardening of their respective assets. It is impossible to secure all ingresses and egresses to a potential jurisdiction, and success of the adversary in getting to the intended target must be considered. In order to mitigate such an attack, law enforcement needs to report in a well structured and expeditious format, the threat to the security personnel responsible for safeguarding the asset. Testing of such cooperation between public and private enterprises needs to be a part of the routine relationship between the management.
Suicide Bomber Interdiction
The interdiction of law enforcement with the suspicious van occurred on one of Israel’s main highways that connect two of the major cities. If the bomber would have successfully detonated oneself, there would have been a number of casualties. Ingress and egress of emergency personnel would be delayed and there would have been difficulty in securing such a scene from additional threats. As part of the response to such incidents, the Jerusalem Police attempts to secure immediately, adequate means for emergency medical services and supporting agencies, easy access to the scene while ensuring a secure perimeter. This technique is done with the assistance of a police helicopter to identify routes for the responding emergency services as well as at an earlier point in the interdiction, identifying the specific point for containment and control of the suspicious vehicle.
Another point for consideration is the need to properly contain and control the suspicious occupants of the vehicle to a location to mitigate any early detonation of the explosive device. In coordination and guidance of the bomb disposal teams, the suspects need to be considered armed with an explosive device until proven otherwise.
The successful response to such an incident is dependent upon the preplanning between all the agencies at all the levels of the command. Dissemination of information, and at a fast pace to the other security agencies is critical in interdicting such a threat. This needs to be done on a regular basis, with open dialogue and cooperation between all agencies. Security forces need to train and cooperate with private security forces at assets that may or have been adversarial targets. Law enforcement needs to understand that in this changing reality, the patrol officer on the street may be responsible for counter terror interdiction. This requires agency policies and procedures that will guide the law enforcement officers at the incident. Communications between the commanders and preplanned responses expedite the response and maximize the initiation of specific tactics for interdiction.