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Israel weighs high tech, common sense solutions to suicide bombs

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, May 22, 2003

TEL AVIV Israel is examining a range of solutions to foil suicide bombings from restrictions on entering buses and trains to high tech devices to detect explosives at a distance of several meters.

Officials and defense experts both in the military's research department and in the Defense Ministry's Research and Development Directorate are involved in the review. Officials said the proposed solutions have been classified.

Industry sources said one solution being considered is the development of technology to detect and neutralize detonators at a distance of up to a kilometer. In the 1990s, Israel's military acquired special systems that could send radio waves to detonate explosives of Hizbullah insurgents in southern Lebanon.

Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael has proposed what he termed a simple way to avoid suicide attacks on Israeli buses. He said passengers would be ordered remove their coats and jackets before they enter the bus or train, Middle East Newsline reported. Most of the Palestinian suicide bombers have worn belts filled with explosives in their attacks on passenger buses.

"It would be like getting on an airline and walking in with your jacket draped over your arm," the general said.

Ben-Yisrael, a former head of the ministry's R&D directorate, played down technological solutions to suicide bombers.

Ben-Yisrael said once the suicide operative enters an Israeli populated area there's little that can be done to prevent an attack.

"Once the suicide bomber gets to the security guard [stationed at an Israeli facility] it is too late," Ben-Yisrael said. "Even if you stop him, he will blow himself up and people will get killed."

Israeli minister Gideon Ezra, a former senior official of the Israel Security Agency, has proposed replacing most of the security guards with Arab citizens. Ezra, regarded as a leading expert in counter-insurgency, said Israeli Arabs can easily distinguish between Arabs who are citizens of the Jewish state and those who were raised and live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

On Monday, a Palestinian teenager dressed in high heels and expensive clothes, tried to enter a shopping mall in Afula. A Russian-born security guard prevented her entry and she blew herself up, killing the guard and two other Israelis.

"Only an Israeli Arab can tell the difference between an Arab citizen and one from the territories," Ezra said. "I am all for Israeli Arabs participating in security."

Ezra played down the significance of a security fence being built along the West Bank. He said completion of the first portion of the fence will take months and is far from fool-proof.

"This [fence] is a dream, an illusion," Ezra said.

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