by DEBKAfile 12 April 2002

"Israeli security foiled a Palestinian terrorist attempt to hit the motorcade driving US secretary of state Colin Powellfrom Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem Thursday night, April 12, shortly after he landed. The Secretary was accompanied by Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and heads of the US embassy.

Just before 9 pm IT, two hours before the US Secretary arrived, a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance was stopped by a hidden Israeli security patrol near the gas station on the Modi’in-Jerusalem Highway 443. The driver and his mate had all the necessary permits for transporting a dead Palestinian policeman to the Gaza Strip. However, since Yasser Arafat’s confinement in Ramallah, security has been intensified on all traffic coming from the direction of the Palestinian town, in case of an attempt to smuggle him out. In any case, in a war situation, in which passage from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip has been suspended, all permits are checked for forgeries.

The ambulance was therefore opened up and searched carefully. Hidden under the corpse was a large supply of explosives and a suicider’s bomb belt.

According to some of DEBKAfile’s sources, the two Palestinians admitted under questioning that they had planned to pull the ambulance up on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv expressway, the route taken later by the Powell motorcade. One of the men was to stay in the vehicle, while the other strapped on the bomb belt and hid in some roadside bushes. When the secretary’s car drove by, the ambulance was rigged to explode. The second bomber was then supposed to leap into the milling crowd of officials and security men and blow himself up.

At 22:07 IT, the booby-trapped Red Crescent ambulance was blown up in a controlled explosion, creating a bang loud enough to frighten dwellers in a broad radius and start the rumor of a rocket attack. Israel security is now investigating the provenance of the Red Crescent ambulance and the official permits."