Israeli Arab Arrested as Main Suspect in Tel Aviv Bus Bombing

Bus in central Tel Aviv where explosion took place (photo credit: Israel Channel 2 screen shot via Times of Israel)

Israel Police and the Shin Bet security services arrested an Israeli Arab suspected of carrying out the Tel Aviv bus bombing which injured about two dozen Israelis Wednesday.

The arrest of the man police say is connected to Hamas and Islamic Jihad took place shortly after the attack, but police placed a gag order on reports about the sensitive operation until Thursday night.

Israel Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said of the suspect: “He admitted to carrying out the terrorist attack.”

According to reports from journalists covering the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians were “ecstatic” at the news of the bombing and celebrated what they considered to be an achievement by handing out candy and firing into the air Wednesday afternoon.

One interesting detail: though the suspect presently lives in Israel, he is originally from the West Bank (known to Jews as Judea and Samaria) and was granted Israeli citizenship on the grounds of family reunification. So-called human rights proponents have in the past lambasted Israel for not allowing more Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza, as well as official enemies of the Jewish state Syria, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, to emigrate to Israel to live with their Israeli spouses.

This arrest is an example which supports Israeli concern about allowing the unrestricted influx of Palestinians into Israel. It’s not the first time family reunification has been exploited by those engaged in terrorism. In January, a 20-year-old granted citizenship on these grounds was arrested for planning an Islamic Jihad-sponsored shooting attack on IDF soldiers.

Holding Israeli citizenship and driving a car with Israeli license plates would allow an individual more freedom of movement, facilitating such an attack.

Ynet reports the man arrested Wednesday was recruited by a terror cell near Ramallah.  It provides further details:

The terror cell members used a car belonging to the suspect’s employer to transport the explosive device into Tel Aviv. The employer, an east Jerusalem resident, had no knowledge of the plan.

According to the Shin Bet, the suspect planted the bomb on the bus and then called the terror cell’s commander in Beit Liqya, who then activated the device via mobile phone. More arrests are expected.

The Shin Bet tells Ynet that the attack was in response to the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Defense, a week-long operation targeting Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.