Bus Bomb Explodes Minutes After Passengers Evacuated

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli police explosives experts survey a damaged bus at the scene of an explosion in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam on Sunday. (REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Israeli police explosives experts survey a damaged bus at the scene of an explosion in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam on Sunday. (REUTERS/Nir Elias)

“A great miracle no one was hurt”

Just 10 minutes after passengers on a bus near Tel Aviv were evacuated when a bomb was discovered on the back seat, it exploded even before it could be defused, lightly injuring a member of the police bomb squad.

“After examining the explosives retrieved from the scene, we have concluded that this was a terrorist attack,” police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said on Sunday.

“There were about a dozen passengers on the bus. The driver stopped immediately when he was alerted to a suspicious object. It was a bag on the back seat, and he immediately ordered everyone off,” Eitan Fixman, a spokesman for the Dan bus company, told Ynet.

Passengers on the Dan 240 bus that was traveling from Bat Yam to Bnei Brak noticed a suspicious package at the back of the bus. One of the passengers, David Papo, opened the large, black bag and saw a device resembling a pressure cooker inside with red wires coming out of it.

The bus driver was alerted, and he asked if the bag belonged to anyone. When no one answered, he stopped the bus at the corner of Mivtza Sinai and Katznelson streets in Bat Yam, ordered the passengers off the bus, and called police, who sent bomb experts to the scene.

Later in the day, President Shimon Peres phoned and thanked bus driver Michael Yoger, 59, and passenger David Papo, whose actions saved lives and averted injuries.

During his conversation with Michael Yoger, President Peres said, “The whole nation is saying prayers of thanks today, you saved so many lives with the speed and bravery of your actions — he who saves one life it is as if he has saved an entire world, you saved many lives today.”

Yoger replied, “Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your kind words; it was a pleasure to speak to you. I thank the Creator for allowing me to stay alive and not still be on that bus.”

Yoger, a religious Jew, downplayed his role, saying that he only acted according to protocols set by the company’s security officer. “I didn’t do anything special,” he said.

A spokesman for the Dan bus company said, “It was a great miracle that no one was hurt.”

Photographs from the scene, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, showed the blast blew out the vehicle’s windows.

Itzik Ben Aharon, director of the Magen David Adom rescue service for the Ayalon district, said, “At 2:35 we received a call that there had been an explosion on a bus, and we immediately jumped into the ambulances. When we arrived, we found one person with light injuries, who was suffering from ringing in his ears. We treated him and sent him to Wolfson” Medical Center in Holon.

An Israeli police officer taking pictures inside a damaged bus at the scene of an explosion in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam on Sunday. (REUTERS/Nir Elias)
An Israeli police officer taking pictures inside a damaged bus at the scene of an explosion in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam on Sunday. (REUTERS/Nir Elias)

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the first such incident since a bomb exploded on an Israeli bus near the Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv in November 2012, when 15 people were wounded. An Israeli Arab pleaded guilty earlier this month to planting the bomb, saying it was for political reasons.

Security forces said they had no prior warning of a terrorist attack on Sunday.

An intensive search for those responsible, by ground and air, was launched, as well as roadblocks to screen passing vehicles.