(Photo Credit: The Times of Israel)
A mysterious roadside bombing at the Megiddo junction in northern Israel on 13 March preoccupied the Israeli security establishment, which has placed the incident under heavy gag orders and refused to publish specific details on the subject due to its sensitive nature.
According to The Times of Israel, police and medics reported that the explosion took place around 6:00 am on the Route 65 highway at the Megiddo Junction, near the Megiddo prison, leaving a young man badly injured after the bomb exploded near his car.
The victim, 21-year-old Shareef al-Din from the northern Arab village of Salem, is being treated at Rambam Hospital in Haifa and is said to be in serious condition after suffering from shrapnel to his entire body, including his head, according to medical officials.
Official Israeli sources have said that the victim may not have been the intended target, as the roadside bomb reportedly planned to target passing soldiers and settlers.
The bomb was apparently planted on the side of the highway, which remained closed for nearly 10 hours after the incident.
Following the incident, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant held a series of security meetings that lasted over 24 hours. Additionally, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the incident is being investigated by the Shin Bet security agency.
Israeli Kan 11 channel reported that “most of the details of the case are forbidden to be published according to censorship instructions – the security system is very concerned about the details of the case.”
This news comes following a series of security incidents over the past week, including multiple explosives found on settler buses in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit on 9 March.
The same day, three resistance leaders were gunned down by Israeli Border Police in Jenin – an explosive charge was also found in their car.
Back in November of last year, Palestinian resistance carried out a twin bombing attack in Jerusalem that was described by the Shin Bet as “complex.” The IEDs were placed on the roadside and attempted to target fully occupied buses using a remote-detonation mechanism.
However, the Megiddo incident, in particular, has been under heavy censorship by the Israeli army. Described as a “commando operation” that is “completely unusual in the security establishment,” according to Yisrael Hayom, it is still unknown who planned the attack, which involved an “elaborate and compact device” that does not resemble those often used in the occupied West Bank.
Hebrew sources compared the explosive device to past roadside bombs used by the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah against the Israeli army in South Lebanon.
Israeli military strategist and former Chief of Staff of the army Gadi Eisenkot told Knesset members on 14 March that “the Israeli army is at a crossroads, and we are currently going through one of the most serious security periods since the Yom Kippur war.”
Expert on Israeli affairs, Dr. Adnan Abu Amer, said that “it is clear that we are facing a dangerous and unusual series of explosive device detonations, which raises questions about who planned it, how it reached this sensitive area, and will the coming days carry other devices?”
Recent months have witnessed an increase in the use of explosive devices by Palestinians as opposed to just shooting operations, in what is being described by many as the beginnings of a third intifada. As a result, the security establishment fears advancement in bomb-making by the Palestinian resistance in the occupied West Bank.
Such bombing operations are reminiscent of those carried out during the Second Intifada, which saw several large-scale attacks, such as the Megiddo Junction bus bombing of 2002 by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
In a 14 March feature by Haaretz, Amos Harel writes: “The Shin Bet and IDF have been concerned for several months about increased attempts” by Palestinians to prepare explosive charges.
Israeli officials have said that publishing the details of the Megiddo bombing will undermine the public’s sense of security at a time when the security establishment is trying to avoid confrontation.