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Bus 405 Suicide Attack

(July 6, 1989)

On July 6, 1989, Abed al-Hadi Ghaneim, a member of Islamic Jihad, hijacked the No. 405 Egged bus traveling from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He had seated himself near the driver and when the bus passed a gorge near Neve Ilan, Ghanheim attacked the driver, seized the steering wheel, and swerved it off the road into a ravine. Some passengers were thrown from the bus, others were trapped when it burst into flames.

Sixteen civilians were killed in the attack, including one American, and 27 were wounded. Students from the Telz-Stone Yeshiva who heard the screaming rushed to the scene to administer first aid. One of them, Yehuda Meshi Zahav, went on to found ZAKA, a volunteer rescue service organization.

The perpetrator, who survived the crash, received medical treatment for his injuries in an Israeli hospital. On October 30, 1989, the Jerusalem District Court sentenced Ghaneim to 16 life sentences for murder, hijacking and terrorism. In addition to the life sentences, he was sentenced to 24 additional terms of 20 years in jail.

On October 18, 2011, Ghanim was released to Gaza as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas.

Like other exchanges, this one was controversial. Many Israelis objected, but others, like singer Ruhama Raz, who lost her sister in the attack, supported the deal. “There is no price for our soldiers. I say this with great pain, tremendous pain, and perhaps there are families that are angry with me.”

Years later, journalist Tamara Zieve summed up the impact of the attack:

The No. 405 bus attack marked the most deadly attack of the intifada to that date. It has been dubbed as the first Palestinian suicide attack, despite the fact that Ghaneim survived. None of the passengers boarding the bus doubted they would arrive at their destination, nor did they panic when the Arab man got up out of his seat and walked toward the driver. That day marked the start of a new phenomenon, a new face of the intifada, and the creation of a new element of fear and anxiety in Israeli society. But with the subsequent wave of suicide attacks that followed, suspicion and safety concerns surrounding public transport and public spaces became an ingrained element of Israeli society.

Sources: Tamara Zieve, “This Week In History: Terror attack on Bus 405,” Jerusalem Post, (July 1, 2012).
“Tel Aviv–Jerusalem bus 405 suicide attack,” Wikipedia.