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Investigators Puzzled by Explosion at Munitions Plant Near Tel Aviv

August 7, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A team of experts investigating last week’s massive blast at the Israel Military Industries plant at Nof Yam is trying to establish why construction elements used for the building of underground storage bunkers failed to contain the explosion.

“It seems unlikely that this was sabotage,” an IMI official has been quoted as saying. “But there are some very peculiar things I cannot explain, which is why we must investigate the possibility (of intifada-style sabotage).”

The explosion killed two workers and injured 40 others, including nearby residents. It was composed of a series of successive blasts that occurred in a number of separate underground bunkers built for the storage of low-explosive raw materials prior to their use in artillery shells and mortar bombs.

Each bunker had been designed according to U.S. safety standards. But last week’s blasts had spread from one bunker to another.

Of the two workers killed in the blast, one had apparently been in or near the entrance to one of the bunkers. His body was found buried under a pile of sand at the entrance. The palms of his hands had been damaged by the explosion, but there were no other signs of injury on the back of his hands or elsewhere on his body.

Police investigators presume he had been injured by the detonation of a small quantity of the low-grade explosives he had been handling. The explosion apparently caused him to fall backwards and be buried by falling earth and sand before the subsequent series of explosions occurred.

The investigation team, headed by Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Horev, was told by IMI management that the installation had contained a total of 230 tons of low-grade explosives stored in seven separate bunkers that were lined with reinforced concrete.

The plant was almost completely destroyed by the blast and will probably not be rebuilt. But some work continued today in unaffected parts of the plant.

Virtually all the cottage-style houses in Nof Yam, just north of Tel Aviv, were damaged by the explosion, as were hundreds of houses further away in Kfar Shmaryahu, Herzliya Pituach and Herzliya.

In the wake of the explosion, government officials and local residents have demanded that the government speed up implementation of its decision last year to move IMI installations away from residential areas to remote sites in the Negev.

Economic Development Minister Shimon Shetreet said over the weekend that every effort would be made to move the IMI plant to the Ramat Beka area of the Negev as soon as possible.

Government officials had hoped that the sale of the land on which IMI factories are located would cover the nearly $1 billion required for their reconstruction and move.

But the sale of the land may not yield as much money as originally hoped. The plants at Nof Yam, Ramat Hasharon and elsewhere were built on land now defined in national land allocation and planning maps as “agricultural land,” which has less resale value than land designated for industrial or residential housing.

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