Fuel Depot Bombing Could Have Been Major Calamity

Wednesday night, May 22, Rishon Lezion, a small town south of TeI Aviv was struck by a Palestinian suicide bomber for the second time in ten days. The killer targeted strollers taking the air in the town’s high street mall and knots of chess-players sitting quietly in a corner opposite a park. Two died and more than 30 hospitalized.
Less than 12 hours later, a catastrophe of disastrous proportions was narrowly prevented. Thursday morning, May 23, a tanker-truck drove into Israel’s central fuel depot at Pi Glilot in north Tel Aviv and caught fire while loading. An explosive device attached to the truck’s underside was detonated by a cell-phone. Fortunately the fuel was slow to ignite and automatic extinguishers quickly put out the flames. The fire did not spread to the fuel drums and no one was hurt.
But the potential scale of the near-calamity aroused horror and obvious questions.
How did the truck, parked during the night outside the driver’s home in Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, get past security with a bomb attached and into the strategic fuel depot? Several months ago, the government decided to move the tinderbox facility away from the most densely populated part of Israel. Why was nothing done?
Miraculously, the device that set the tanker truck ablaze at Pi Glilot – an incident that could have killed more people than a radiological bomb blast in Tel Aviv – did not lead to catastrophe. By good fortune, the truck took on diesel fuel that burns more slowly than, say, gasoline, otherwise the flames would have spread to the tons of stored fuel. The security authorities will no doubt redouble their demands to move the fuel depot to a safer area. But their top priority now is to find out how Palestinian terrorists were able to target, sabotage and track the fuel tanker along its 15-mile route through Tel Aviv from Holon to Pi Glilot and detonate the device at the most vulnerable moment when the tanker was loading up.
This operation demanded a high level of organization, detailed preparation and intense surveillance by trained terrorist intelligence agents. Its execution was proficient enough to evade detection by Israeli security, including intelligence, even though Palestinian trackers must have followed the targeted truck past many eyes.
Their advance planning would have entailed surveillance of the tanker driver to observe where and how he parked his truck and how often he checked the vehicle. The watchers would have studied his work habits, found out what time did he usually left for Pi Glilot to take on a load of fuel and how many times a week.
Surveillance team or teams must have tailed him more than once all the way fromHolon to Pi Glilot, timing the journey and noting delaying factors. They also familiarized themselves with the Pi Glilot security routines for entering and exiting tanker trucks.
The surveillance squads would have discovered what all Israelis have long known that there is no such thing as foolproof security. Neither can every inch of a tanker truck be examined in a security check. They used a cell phone for total control of the explosion’s timing, making sure it went off inside the depot. The cell phone bombing method was developed by Gaza security chief Mohammed Dahlan and has been used in many Palestinian terrorist attacks. The device and phone were apparently planted during the night. In the morning, the terrorists followed the driver to Pi Glilot.
Security forces are now trying to discover whether the Palestinians used one or more surveillance vehicles to tail the tanker from Holon. Another team may have been waiting at Pi Glilot.
It is an open secret in Israel that some of the country’s most sensitive security and military installations are located in the Pi Glilot area, in addition to miles of residential streets and main highways. It is hard to believe that none of the many thousands of security personnel stationed nearby spotted anything amiss.
Several months ago, debkafile warned that Pi Glilot was on the terrorists’ target list. Now, debkafile‘s sources have discovered a new and equally dangerous threat posed by the dozens of unprotected landing strips for crop duster planes, especially those used by the Chemnir aviation company, scattered across the country. Dozens of crop duster planes are parked at these airfields every night, their fuel tanks full to save time in the morning and barrels of toxic chemicals waiting for loading nearby.
No one guards these planes and airstrips at night. By day, only a handful of security men armed with pistols are on duty. The security services, especially the police, have been trying for months to draw the attention of an apathetic transport ministry to the problem. Any terrorists trained as pilots could simply saunter into one of the open airfields, take off in a crop duster, spread poisonous chemicals over Israeli cities or villages and land before anyone was the wiser. Yet, no one has yet managed to stir the transport ministry and the crop dusting companies out of their lethargy.
150 million liters of gasoline and 2,000 tons of gas stored there.

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