JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank caught a Palestinian man wearing an explosive belt on Friday, police and the military said, preventing what could have been the first suicide attack in the area for years.
Border police guarding a busy junction near the Palestinian city of Nablus were suspicious about the man who was wearing a coat on a hot day and ordered him to stop, military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner told reporters.
The man, who was in his 20s and has not yet been named, immediately lay down in the road and raised his shirt to reveal that he was wearing an explosive belt. The device was removed and later detonated by army experts.
“There were 12 steel pipes connected with wires,” Lerner said. “He said he was supposed to activate it. ‘Touch it and activate’ was the wording he used.”
Israel saw a wave of suicide bombings a decade ago during the height of a Palestinian uprising. However, the last such attacks took place in 2008 and Lerner said military intelligence had no indication of any specific threat at present.
“It is a freak incident,” he said, noting that the security forces did not yet know if the man, who came from Nablus and is under interrogation, was affiliated to any militant group.
The incident happened at the Tapuah Junction, just south of Nablus - a particularly sensitive area with a high level of security near a number of Jewish settlements. A settler was killed at the same junction by a Palestinian in April 2013.
U.S.-led peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians collapsed last month, and some military analysts have warned of a possible uprising given the lack of any clear way forward to resolve the generations-old conflict.
Although there have been sporadic outbursts of violence in recent weeks, there has been no indication of any widespread or more organized disturbances.
Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Crispian Balmer; Editing by Louise Ireland