Reporter's Notebook: Homicide Attacks in Israel

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Photo Essay: On the Scene in Israel

DIMONA, Israel — We had a pretty good idea that a bomb attack was coming. I had declined a number of invitations to Super Bowl parties. With the time change here, the Super Bowl parties didn’t start until 1:00 a.m. One of my buddies even called me at midnight, but I stayed home and skipped the game. I was worried about not having enough sleep and unable to think fast if another bomber struck. I don’t live that way all the time but there were just too many indicators that another bomb attack was just around the corner.

Fenced up and overpopulated, the Gaza Strip is like a pressure cooker. Every act of violence pumps tension into the Gaza Strip. The deteriorating quality of life since Hamas took over adds to the pressure. Palestinian Qassam rockets come out, Israeli air strikes and military incursions go back in and Palestinians throb with emotion. When Israel blockaded the crossings the pressure cooker blew, Hamas militants blew out the wall that separates Gaza from Egypt and Palestinians spilled over the border.

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The Egyptian Police attempted to keep the escapees contained to Rafah, the town immediately on the Egyptian side of the border. They were unsuccessful. The Egyptians announced that they had picked up 17 Palestinian in various spots across the Sinai Peninsula, armed and intending to attack Israelis. Some were planning to attack Israeli tourists in the Sinai, others were intending to cross back into Israel and attack there.

While the Gaza Strip is separated from Israel by a fence, monitored with optics and patrolled by soldiers, Egypt is not. The border extending south from the Gaza Strip to the Red Sea is protected mostly by an open expanse of desert. There is some fencing but it’s not impassable. The first 30 miles of border, immediately south of the Gaza Strip, are patrolled by only eight soldiers at any given time.

On Sunday, Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency, told the Israeli Cabinet the agency had identified 30 locations where bombers could cross from the Sinai into Israel. He said there was an immediate need to build a fence. A day later, one Israeli woman was killed, one critically injured and around a dozen wounded.

One of the two bombers detonated, killing himself instantly. The other did not but was injured by his collaborators bomb. He ended up lying among the victims when emergency medical technicians arrived. Attempting to give first aid, the EMTs pulled open his coat and discovered his unexploded bomb belt. People shouted and ran from the scene. A police officer named Kobi Mor, however, approached. The second bomber appeared to reach for his detonating device and officer Mor opened fire. Looking at the video, it appears the bomber was shot in the hand and several times in the head. His bomb did not explode.

Initially, Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. That organization is responsible for most of the recent Qassam rocket fire and many of their top militants had been killed by Israeli military strikes in Gaza. Later, the Al Aqsa Martyr’s brigades, the militant wing of the Fatah party, claimed responsibility. That organization went as far as to release “shahid” videos: tapes that bombers make before they attack. Late in the evening, Hamas claimed responsibility.

It’s my belief that the confusion was generated because each of these organizations dispatched bombers. As I write this, there is Gaza militants still unaccounted for, having gotten loose into the Sinai desert. Possibly, they crossed into Israel. The Jewish state is maintaining its terror threat alert at its second highest level. There is every reason to fear I could be covering another bombing in the coming days.

E-mail Mike Tobin
Photo Essay: On the Scene in Israel

Mike Tobin is a Jerusalem-based reporter for FOX News Channel. Click over to read more of his bio.

Michael Tobin joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Chicago-based correspondent.