Palestinian wearing ‘suicide belt’ is detained, Israeli officials say

— Israeli security officials said their border police at a military checkpoint in the West Bank detained a young Palestinian man wearing a “suicide belt” packed with explosives. The man was arrested and did not activate the device, they said.

The possible return of suicide bombings sent a chill through Israeli society. Suicide attacks in buses, markets, cafes and checkpoints, against civilian and military targets, were a signal tactic during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in the early 2000s. More than 600 Israelis and Palestinians were killed in those bombings.

The last suicide bombings in Israel that led to deaths or injuries occurred in 2008. Since then there have been numerous uses of improvised explosive devices, left along the Israeli fence that surrounds the Gaza Strip and other locales, designed to kill or maim Israeli military patrols. In 2012, a bomb left on a Tel Aviv bus that was remotely detonated injured two dozen people.

According to Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, senior spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, a Palestinian man in his 20s approached a checkpoint at Tapuah Junction south of Nablus in the West Bank about 10:30 a.m. Friday.

“He raised suspicions, in the way he approached and what he was wearing,” Lerner said. The man was wearing a coat and the day was already warm, about 77 degrees.

The border guards ordered the man to stop, open his jacket and lift up his shirt. He revealed “12 steel pipes connected with wires” around his waist, Lerner said. Later, a bomb disposal team detonated one of the metal tubes and confirmed that it contained explosive material.

A short video of the man, after he had been stripped of his clothes, appeared on news Web sites in Israel.

“It’s been quite a long time since we’ve exposed anything of this type,” said Lerner, who added that the man did not appear to be a known militant. “He was taken to interrogation.”

Both Israeli military officials and Palestinian security forces have been watching to see if the collapse of U.S.-brokered peace talks last month leads to increased tensions and violence. Earlier this month, two Palestinian teenagers, who had been throwing rocks during a demonstration, were shot and killed. Video footage of their deaths and medical evidence suggest that Israeli troops used lethal force; the Israeli military says their deaths are being investigated.

Israeli media quoted unnamed military sources as saying that it was unclear whether the man with the explosives was planning to detonate the device at the checkpoint or travel to another location.

There was an uptick last year in attacks against Israelis by Palestinians, who acted on their own out of personal vendettas or frustrations.

William Booth is The Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief. He was previously bureau chief in Mexico, Los Angeles and Miami.
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