Alan Mills – Conscription – Palestine – Terrorism

Terrorism at the Egged Bus Station

One thing that always amazed me was the amount of noise on public transport in Haifa. I didn’t use buses that often but when I did, the argueing, chatter, joking and shouting was about ten times louder than the more sedate hum of  conversation on a Leeds tram but I suppose that was typical of the locals, both Jewish and Arab.

One particular February morning I found myself accompanied by an Arab full police constable FPC 2808.  It sounds a bit impersonal but generally we referred to the Arab constables by their numbers, it wasn’t any sort of racism or snobbery, the reason for this was they all seemed to be called Mohammed and generally their sir names were too difficult to pronounce.

 Our shift had started almost comically with a slight accident between two cars. One driver was Jewish, the other an Arab. It really was nothing serious but what a hullabaloo they  created, using some very choice language and insults. After ten minutes of trying to calm them, with other drivers stuck in a queue behind them and sounding their horns in rage, I had to threaten to arrest them but fortunately, sanity prevailed and they got back in their cars to go their separate ways.

  We were walking towards Barclays Bank on Kingsway when there was an ear shattering explosion some distance behind us, followed by a plume of grey/ white cloud. My immediate thoughts were the Egged (Express) Bus Station and so it proved. A fast sprint alanmillsegged-bus-stationdown to the bus station found Manor Square which was an overspill for the bus station in a state of carnage.

 Apparently a green, telephone repair van had pulled up where the buses turned into the station and the driver just got out and left it there, in a very haphazard position. The van was packed with explosives and as I arrived at the scene I was confronted by the bloodied, the injured and the dead lying all over the place.

  One bus had been blasted and shifted by the explosion, it’s windows had blown clean out and it was blocking the way for the ambulances, I boarded the bus and walked up the centre aisle.   It seemed uncanny, the bus was pretty full but there was no chatter or no screams for that   matter. Then it dawned on me, they were all dead but there was no blood and gore, everyone was just sat in their seats, it was strange and eerie, something I will never forget.

  I was then joined by a bus driver who volunteered to drive the bus up to the morgue at the Nasser Hospital. Together we laid the body of the original driver in the centre aisle and I told the new driver I would guide him round the post office van which was still on fire. I got off the bus and as I walked round the back I could see the carnage unfolding before my eyes.  I was the only police or army around,(I couldn’t see my Arab mate anywhere). I was nineteen years old and if I didn’t feel out of my depth then, I did when I walked round the back of the bus and a girl in her early teens with thick black framed glasses on came running up to me with tears streaming down her cheeks. She wailed at me in a strange voice which I can still remember  clearly now “My shooo, my shooo, I’ve lost my shooo.” I looked towards her but behind her, there was a headless body hanging out of the rear curved window. and to my eternal regret replied, “Never mind love, that poor devil has lost his head.” She carried on wailing, “My shooo, my shooo,”  I was almost glued to the spot, an elderly lady came out of the crowd and gestured towards me to hand the girl over to her, I cleared some glass from the pavement and gently passed the girl to the old lady.”

 Eventually we got the bus from out of the station and I tried to exert some control over the situation, ambulances and fire engines came and went but I was still alone and it felt to me like nobody gave a damn. I tried to take statements, plenty had seen the green van park up but the descriptions of the driver varied from tall, slim with black hair to short, fat and bald.

The bus station bombing was something that has stayed with me forever. In 2003, the best part of sixty years later, I switched the TV on to find a suicide bomber had killed 37 at the Egged Bus Station in Haifa. Will we ever learn?

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