A man wearing an explosive belt was stopped by Israeli forces near the Palestinian city of Nablus, in the occupied West Bank, on Friday — in what Israeli authorities said is possibly the first averted suicide attack in more than six years.
The man, described as being in his 20s, was stopped at the Tapuah junction checkpoint, where he reportedly caught the attention of officers because he was wearing a heavy coat on a hot day.
When ordered to stop, he immediately lay down and raised his shirt, revealing the explosives, and then allowed himself to be disarmed. The suspect was held for questioning and the bomb was neutralized, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said.
"He said he was supposed to activate it," military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner told reporters. "'Touch it and activate' was the wording he used."
Lerner added that the belt was made up of 12 pipe bombs connected by wires, but it’s not clear whether it was a viable device.
A video shot from behind a fence and shared by the Jerusalem Post shows the man being led away by soldiers.
The area surrounding Nablus is often tense, as the Palestinian city is surrounded by Israeli settlements, and confrontations between settlers and Palestinians are not uncommon. A settler was killed at the same junction in 2013.
Suicide bombings were frequent during the Second Intifada between 2000 and 2005, and in the years that followed, but Israel had not seen attacks of this kind since 2008.
Lerner said security forces did not yet know whether the man was affiliated to any groups, and called the episode "a freak incident."
But the arrest comes at a sensitive time after the latest rounds of peace talks ended in yet another failure.
Meanwhile, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas tasked Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to form a new unity government between the often divided factions of Fatah and Hamas — a move towards national reconciliation that Israel is not going to be happy about.
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