Israeli authorities are helping American police become more skilled in protecting public transportation and other potential terrorist targets.Israeli police officers are sharing the experience they’ve received in combating terrorism by training groups of officers from the United States in preventing suicide bombings and other attacks and coping with their aftermaths, Israeli officials said.
Israeli police have hosted members of several U.S. police forces and other law enforcement agencies for workshops, have given lectures in the United States and have responded to regular requests for advice from the U.S. Embassy, said Ze’ev Veldiger, head of the Israel Police security department.
A 12-member delegation of senior police officers from Georgia is in Israel now for a series of lectures and demonstrations dealing with counter-terrorism. Earlier in May, five New York City police investigators also visited the country and Veldiger said he has received several queries directly from the New York Police Department since Sept. 11.
All this activity is especially timely. Earlier this month, FBI Director Robert Mueller told a gathering of district attorneys that it was “inevitable” that the United States will be hit by suicide bombings at some point in the future and has announced a major reorganization of the agency to deal with the domestic terrorist threat.
The cooperation between Israel and the United States on the issue of security is working both ways, Veldiger said. Israel has recently purchased U.S.-made mobile screening devices that contain an X-ray unit and an instrument that sniffs out explosives.
“We get calls from the Embassy on all kinds of issues, schools, public transportation, how to deal with… protecting buildings,” Veldiger said.
Spokesman Paul Patin of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem would not provide details of the United States-Israeli exchanges on terrorism, but said “cooperation is great.”
A particular area of concern for Americans is protecting schools from attack, and Veldiger has also advised American colleagues on securing public transportation, a frequent target of suicide bombers in Israel since 1994.
The issue is somewhat sensitive in Israel, but many welcome the new awareness of terrorism as relieving their isolation. Israeli police spokesman Gil Kleiman said the police counted 1,798 violent incidents involving Palestinian militants in 2001, from suicide bombings to shootings and stabbings. Public places in Israel are now guarded, metal detectors are used at entrances to shopping centers, and police guard areas where crowds naturally form, such as bus stops.
One area where Israel may have much to teach is the grisly post-attack procedure; police and rescue workers have become efficient in evacuating wounded, securing a scene and clearing away debris.
Kleiman said Israeli officers have instructed American colleagues on onsite forensics, evacuations and “secondary attacks,” the scenario in which a second bomb is detonated after rescue workers arrive at the scene of a first explosion.
But terrorists are using newer technology, too, such as explosives “that don’t show up on security screens,” he said.
They also use more traditional ways to evade detection. In recent suicide missions Palestinian bombers have gone unnoticed by disguising themselves as religious Jews or soldiers, and one dyed his spiky hair blond in the manner of some Israeli teenagers.