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Israel Buys Armored Bus Fleet

March 1, 2016

“Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets. … He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me.”  (Psalm 55:11,18)

Israel is investing in public safety with a record-breaking order of 71 anti-explosive, bulletproof buses from Merkavim, the country’s lead bus manufacturer, after Hamas released a music video on February 7 calling martyrs to bomb buses.

The song, hosted by Hamas’ official station Al-Aqsa TV, goaded listeners to violence by claiming that “to die as a martyr for al-Aqsa [the black-roofed mosque on the Temple Mount] gives the explosive device more force.”  The lyrics push for more bombings and explicitly call to target Israel’s buses, by stating, “The intifada [uprising] is not an intifada if the bus roof doesn’t fly off.”

The incitement video has been widely shared on social media, including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

The Israel Defense Ministry will finance the cost of the protection, since it is responsible for the safety of residents in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem region, Gush Etzion, Hebron, and the Benjamin area, hotspots for terrorists.

Merkavim Mars Defender, Israel, terrorism

The Merkavim Mars Defender bus “unique protective system enables the bus to continue driving during an attack, and to escape from the attack area,” according to the Merkavim website.

Transportation companies that operate in these territories, including the Egged bus company, have requested the Merkavim Mars Defender buses to increase the frequency of buses on higher-risk roads.

“The low frequency of buses is one of the factors for extensive hitchhiking in the West Bank, which increases the risk of kidnappings,” writes Udi Etzion and Gad Lior for Ynet News.  They write that Israel’s Transportation Minister Israel Katz began designating armored buses to transport students after the kidnapping and murder of Gil-ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach in June 2014.

Merkavim has issued the Jewish state 400 armored buses in the past 20 years, including 150 Mars Defender models.  The 71 new vehicles, each costing Israel NIS 1.5 million ($385,000), are the factory’s latest model, cost twice as much as standard buses, and will replace some other armored vehicles that have become obsolete.  As a whole, the 71 new steel-plated buses will cost the state NIS 106 million ($27.2 million).  

Merkavim worked with Israeli military to oversee the design of the buses, which are equipped with bulletproof glass effective against 7.62 mm caliber bullets (which are designed to pierce armor), grenades, and other explosives.  The buses are built on a chassis made by Volvo (a 25% owner of Merkavim) with a double rear axle, which can bear the heavy armor that plates the roof, floor, and body of the bus that will protect up to 53 passengers.

Terror Strikes-public bus-Eilat

On August 18, 2011, a three-prong terrorist attack against Israeli citizens began with terrorists opening fire on a public bus (Egged) bound for Eilat, a popular vacation destination.  Seven people were killed and about 40 were injured.

The Palestinian terrorists that have targeted Israel since mid-September have taken the lives of more than 30 Israelis, as well as American, Eritrean, and Sudanese nationals.  The attacks have indiscriminately targeted Israelis or Jews in Jerusalem and around Israel in the form of stabbings, shootings, fire-bombings, and pedestrian car rammings,

Gaza’s leader Ismail Haniyeh, of the Hamas party, stated in a Times of Israel report that “the intifada will continue and will become the greatest strategic turning point in the history of the Palestinian struggle.”

“Nothing will be able to stop this intifada. Not the occupying enemy [Israel] and not its security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority [run by self-promoted president Mahmoud Abbas],” Haniyeh said at a rally in Rafah, Gaza.

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