Ben-Gurion International Airport security went on emergency high alert early Tuesday morning when two Palestinian men driving a truck barreled through the airport’s security barrier and refused orders to stop.
The truck continued on through a second, improvised roadblock and tried to run over a security guard before it was brought to a halt 600 feet from the entrance to Terminal 3, by another security guard shooting out the vehicle’s four tires.
Security personnel gave chase as the two men then fled the refigerator truck on foot and apprehended them a few minutes later.
The two suspects, Mohammad Yousef, 21, and Riyadh Beny Yehuda, 27, both from Tulkarem, were believed by police to have stolen the truck at Beit Dagan a few hours before, and entered the airport area by mistake after turning off the highway.
No explosives or firearms were found in the vehicle or on their persons.
While the incident was occurring, airport authorities delayed several flights and stopped traffic in the airport complex. But all was back to normal soon after the men were arrested and it was determined that it had not been a terrorist attack.
Ben Gurion Airport Manager Shmuel Zakai and other officials praised security personnel for their “cool-headed response” in the emergency.
However, Dr. Zev Gefen, the director of the Israeli College of Security and Investigation in Petach Tikva, was critical of their performance.
“The guards stationed at the first gate were supposed to have acted,” he said. “They identify anyone who passes that point. They are armed with automatic weapons and should have responded immediately. It does not appear that they acted according to protocol.”
“Although the investigation hasn’t been completed, I think the security should have been much more aggressive,” Dr. Gefen said.
The head of the security force at Ben Gurion Airport, Zohar Gefen, defended the guards, saying that “the personnel on the spot, as well as those who were hidden from view, responded in a very short time, following the rules in such an incident.
“We don’t start shooting right away at a vehicle that runs a checkpoint, especially in a public place where there are many travelers,” adding that the vehicle was stopped at a safe enough distance from the terminal that even had there been gunfire, no one would have been hurt.
Police noted Tuesday morning that the last terror attack at Ben Gurion was the “Lod Massacre” in 1972, when three members of the Japanese Red Army gunned down 26 people.