Page last updated at 10:08 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Failed Israel bomb attack 'huge'

Outside the Haifa shopping centre
The shopping centre was crowded after the Sabbath when the device was discovered

A car bomb defused outside a mall in the northern town of Haifa on Saturday evening contained a "huge quantity" of explosives, Israeli police say.

About 100kg of explosives were found, about 20 times the amount that could destroy a bus, a police spokesman said.

The bomb was found after a minor explosion, possibly caused by a detonator, police said.

Bombings against Israeli civilians were common during the Palestinian uprising that began in 2001, but are now rare.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the car in which the explosives were found, together with ball bearings, had been stolen from East Jerusalem.

The car was found in the external car park of the mall, rather than the underground area below the building, which is subject to more stringent security checks.

The mall was crowded after the end of the Jewish sabbath.

Mr Rosenfeld said an investigation into where the explosives came from and how the attackers were able to transport the car into the heart of an urban areas was under way.

The West Bank barrier has greatly reduced the ability of Palestinian militants to cross from the West Bank into Israel, which Israel says is one of the reasons the number of suicide attacks taking place has been reduced.

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday that a "huge disaster" had been averted.

"A preliminary investigation shows it was a terrorist infrastructure operating with great sophistication and aiming to carry out a mass-casualty attack," he said, without naming any group.

Israel media reported that a group named Liberators of the Galilee had said it was responsible, but also quoted security sources who doubted the veracity of the claim.

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