Israel: 'We prefer to get their buddies than their bodies'

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Although it is wholly acceptable - and legal - to shoot to kill those about to perpetrate a suicide bombing in Israel, cases in which it happens are relatively rare. If a would-be or failed suicide bomber can be arrested, Israeli security services much prefer to do so, on the principle, according to a senior Israeli source last night, that "we prefer to get their buddies than their bodies".

One of the most publicised cases - because it was reconstructed by the Army for reporters - was that of Hussam Abdu, a 14-year-old boy wearing an explosives vest who was spotted and detained at the Hawara checkpoint outside Nablus.

But the proliferation of checkpoints in the West Bank, the fact that at least the youngest would-be bombers often do stop when ordered to do so, and the existence of highly sophisticated remote controlled robot equipment to defuse the explosives makes arrests commoner than might be thought.

There have also been cases when shooting has not been an option. In one such incident, in June 2002, an off-duty policeman called Aaron Gozland helped limit the carnage caused by a suicide bombing in the French Hill district of Jerusalem. In an act of stunning bravery, he leapt on the bomber, attempting to smother him, and was paralysed from the waist down.

Interviewed last year by The Independent, he said he calculated he did not have time to draw his gun and that his only alternative was to jump on the man.

There have been several cases of suicide bombers being shot. One wearing an explosive belt detonated himself, despite being shot, at a petrol station near the entrance to the city of Ariel.

The Israeli security services also shot and killed a would-be suicide bomber called Wassim Jalad, who had mysteriously turned back from bombing the Kaffit café in Jerusalem's German Colony last year. And a suicide bomber was shot after being spotted in Jaffa earlier in the intifada.