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Israelis Claim Cyanide-Bomb Attempt

June 5, 2002

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ On the eve of Wednesday’s suicide attack on a bus, the Israeli military chief of intelligence disclosed an earlier bomber tried but failed to use deadly cyanide gas in an attack on a hotel.

Israeli security experts also said Palestinian militants were trying to escalate the number of casualties resulting from their attacks by working on a mega terror assault.

The failed attempt to use cyanide gas was allegedly part of the March 27 bombing of the Park Hotel in coastal Netanya. The attack killed 29 Israelis and triggered Israel’s six-week military offensive against Palestinian militants in the West Bank.

Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi on Tuesday briefed a parliamentary committee about the attempt, army spokesman Brig. Gen. Ron Kitrey confirmed Wednesday.

Zeevi said a technical mishap prevented the release of the cyanide gas. The daily Maariv, which reported the Zeevi comments, did not say what prevented the cyanide release.

Maariv quoted Zeevi as saying _ and Kitrey confirmed the assessment _ that Palestinian militants were trying hard to carry out a so-called mega attack, with scores of casualties.

Zeev Schiff, a military commentator for the Haaretz daily, also said Palestinian militants groups were constantly attempting to launch such attacks, ``if they only get a chance.″

Schiff suggested that continued coordination with Arab regimes in Iran, Syria or Iraq could help militant groups in their attempts.

Last month, militants detonated a bomb under a tank truck as it was refueling at Israel’s largest fuel depot in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. The explosion burned the truck’s cabin, but did not spread to other vehicles or the huge fuel containers, and the fire was extinguished.

Also, Israeli officials said recently they succeeded in thwarting plans to park an explosives-laden truck under twin high-rise buildings in Tel Aviv.

Biological warfare expert Danny Shoham of Bar-Ilan University said cyanide gas can be fatal in an enclosed space, such as the dining hall where the Netanya attack took place.

In Wednesday’s attack, an Islamic suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives alongside an Israeli bus and then ignited a huge fireball that flipped the bus over twice. Sixteen passengers _ 13 of them soldiers _ were killed and dozens wounded.

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