Iran's "Merchant of Death" Terrorism Comes To Arafat's Aid

by DEBKAfile

16 July 2002

The expert ambush laid for the Bnei Brak-Immanuel bus 189 Tuesday, July 16, left seven Israelis dead. Eight of the 16 injured are fighting for their lives. The hospital had to deliver a badly hurt pregnant woman of a premature baby by Caesarian incision, in an attempt to save both lives.

The baby did not survive the night; his mother remains in serious condition from abdominal gunshot wounds.

The other seven Israelis murdered on the bus are:
Tiferet Sarah Shilon, 9 months
Her father Gal Shilon, 30, from Immanuel,
Her grandmother, Zilpah Kashi, 67, from Givatayim
(Tiferet’s mother and twin sister are in grave condition)
as well as four Immanuel residents
Yehonathan Gamliel, 16
Keren Kashani, 20
Ilana Siton, 35,
Galila Addas, 26

Immanuel is a small town. Therefore the second Palestinian attack in less than a year has decimated families that first suffered losses in last December’s strike that killed eleven residents.

Four Palestinian groups, led by Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, made haste to claim “credit” for the attack. Their boast was hollow. Since Israeli forces took control of West Bank Palestinian towns three weeks ago, none of the regular terrorist groups has been able to break out of the Israeli military grip clamped down on their strongholds - though not for want of trying. The last two of more than 20 attempts were thwarted Tuesday morning.

DEBKAfile ’s military sources note that the Immanuel massacre broke with the routine Palestinian terrorist atrocity in that it was engineered by Iran through its military-terrorist surrogate, the Hizballah, under the direct command of the super terrorist Imad Mughniyeh.

The Hizballah-Palestinian alliance surfaced tangibly on January 3, when the Karine-A arms smuggling ship was captured in mid-voyage and, again on March 27 in the Seder slaughter at Netanya’s Park Hotel. DEBKAfile reported after the Netanya massacre that one of its purposes had been to cover the penetration by sea of Hizballah operatives and al Qaeda elements. The
rising level of bloodshed in the wave of the violence in June – especially against buses (which provoked the current open-ended Israeli operation on the West Bank) - further reflected the alien hand it work. Seventeen Israelis – 13 of them in uniform - died in the Megiddo Junction bus attack on June 5; 21 more in the bus explosion at Jerusalem’s Patt Junction; another 7 Israelis were murdered three days later by a suicide killer at a bus-stop at the opposite end of Jerusalem – the French Hill intersection.
Extra-powerful explosives detonated by ingenious devices made their appearance then, used in ways unfamiliar to Israeli security with devastatingly lethal effect.

Tuesday’s Immanuel attack displayed quasi-military advance planning, efficient intelligence and expert tactics carried out by well-trained operatives. Their planning and attention to detail was faultless, including their escape route. The killer squad of three or four men appears to have spent two days or more lying up near the scene of the attack. They studied the 189 bus’s route and timetable and marked the vulnerable gaps in its armor. First, they set explosives in its path, calculating in advance that the blast would tip the bus over on its right, leaving its unarmored windows and roof exposed. The terrorists then leapt out of their hiding place and sprayed the unprotected windows and roof with automatic fire, tossing hand grenades through the smashed windows. They also turned their guns on a pick-up van behind the crippled the bus.

Most of the victims, taken off guard by the Israeli army uniforms worn by the killers, suffered gunshot wounds, unlike the more common blast and flying shrapnel injuries from terrorist attacks.

The terrorists’ disguise fooled Israeli troops who rushed to the scene demanding that their “comrades” pitch in to help the injured, instead of which they opened fire on the rescuers too.

This method of operation was first seen in the attack four months ago on March 12, when seven Israelis were slaughtered on the Kabri-Matsuba highway of North Israel’s Galilee. That strike was the work of a mixed team of Ahmed Jibril’s Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, and Hizballah, who spent several days at the scene of attack beforehand. Then too, the killers lay in wait until a line of Israeli cars was disabled, then advanced on their victims spraying bullets and hurling grenades directly into the vehicles, until they were sure that the injured were dead.

The multiple murder method exhibited in Immanuel resembled the Galilee attack closely enough to convince DEBKAfile’s senior military sources that the professional, highly-trained killers came from the same outfit, the Hizballah.

This ties in with a fresh disclosure by DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources: In late March, Iran and the Hizballah, with Syrian president Bashar Assad’s concurrence, appointed Mughniyeh, one of the 22 terrorists on the FBI’s most wanted list, supreme commander of south Lebanon. One of his main tasks is to fashion for Yasser Arafat a fresh terrorist apparatus for the West Bank, to replace the one that the IDF has demolished in its two large-scale counter-terror offensives in the last three months. With Arafat’s blessing, therefore, the new south Lebanon commander has been busy pumping a fresh influx of Hizballah and PFLP-GC operatives into the areas under Palestinian control. They are manning the new terror organization that showed its mettle Tuesday at Immanuel.

The claim of responsibility by the four Palestinian groups is therefore meaningless. What has happened is that Arafat has found a way to field a fresh, well-trained organ of violence to make sure the bloodletting goes on.