On this day: Attack on the 405 bus

July 6 1989: Terror on the road to Jerusalem

By Jennifer Lipman, July 6, 2011

Fourteen people were killed in an incident that has since been described as the first suicide attack on Israelis.

The attack, which also left 27 people with injuries, occurred on the number 405 bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The driver had reached the junction after the Israeli Arab village of Abu Ghosh, when a man seized the steering wheel and began shouting in Arabic.

He pulled the bus to the right and, despite a struggle with the driver, succeeded in making it go over the side of a cliff.

Among those killed were a Canadian schoolgirl and a 15-year-old from Jerusalem, whose father had been injured in a petrol bomb ten years earlier. The perpetrator was later identified as a 25-year-old Arab from a refugee camp. He was hospitalised and subsequently convicted of murder, hijacking and terrorism.

What happened prompted immense anger in Israel, with a number of retaliatory incidents, which Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir condemned as a "worrying phenomenon".

President Chaim Herzog said of the attack: "This tragic incident reminds that the fight against terror in our country has not ended."

The attack had another lasting impact – it prompted the creation of Israel's Orthodox disaster response organisation ZAKA, after yeshiva student Meshi Zahav was one of the first on the bloody scene. He later said of what he saw that it was "chilling and horrifying chaos".

What the JC said: The bus had just begun picking up speed on the long, straight stretch of the road after the junction at the Arab village of Abu Ghosh [which sided with Israel in the War of Independence in 1948], when an Arab passenger went up to the driver and wrenched the steering wheel to the right, sending the bus careering into a ravine. As the bus rolled over, finishing up on its roof and catching fire, most of the passengers were thrown out.

See more from the JC archives here

Last updated: 11:52am, July 6 2011