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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Driver survives fourth attack
Bus driver Mickey Harel
Harel survived his fourth attack in as many months
Despite being among the injured in Wednesday's bus attack in northern Israel, bus driver Mickey Harel can count himself lucky - this was the fourth time he had been at or near a bombing in the last year.

Map of Israel, showing Haifa, Megiddo and Jenin
He set off as usual on Wednesday morning from the central bus station in Tel Aviv on his daily route to Tiberias in the north.

Several soldiers got on board at stops along the way.

His bus blew up just as it reached the Megiddo intersection of the Nahal Iron (Wadi Ara) Highway outside Afula.

"Before I got to the Megiddo jail where there is usually a roadblock, I started to slow down but this time the roadblock wasn't there," Mr Harel said.

"All of a sudden there was a big explosion," he told the BBC.

"I clung to the wheel then I managed to get out the window."

He said the windscreen disintegrated and was blown outwards as fire rapidly engulfed the vehicle.

Daily journey

"I realised immediately that it was a terror attack, either inside or alongside the bus," he said.

"I jumped out and saw soldiers [on the ground] near the bus and the bus itself started to burn."

According to him and several passengers who survived, the bus was blown to the left and the right overturned and then righted itself on its wheels before sliding into a ditch almost directly beneath the walls of the Megiddo jail.

"Together with another person we started to drag the soldiers to the middle of the road. I also tried to get near the site of the bus, but the flames prevented me," he said.

This is just the latest in a series of near-misses.

In October, while Mr Harel was off-duty, a Palestinian gunmen dressed as an Israeli soldier fired into the bus he normally drives, killing three people standing nearby.

A month later, Mr Harel said he drove just 50 meters behind a bus which was ripped apart by a suicide bomber near the Arab town of Umm el-Fahm.

And last month a suicide bomber blew himself up on the side of the road, as Mr Harel was driving past. No others were killed.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Orla Guerin
"This was the fourth attack near driver Mickey Harel in the past few months"

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05 Jun 02 | Middle East
05 Jun 02 | Middle East
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