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Most of the security guards at Israel's shopping centers have had no training for their job and some have never seen explosives and wouldn't recognize them if they did, Police Emergency Operations chief Meir Ben-Yishai said Thursday.

"The security standard in Israel is appalling and must be improved immediately," Ben-Yishai told a gathering of the Israel Security Forum. The comments came in the wake of an averted disaster last week at Haifa's Lev Hamifratz mall.

"The media reported that the police bomb-disposal squads held an exercise after the booby-trapped-car incident at Lev Hamifratz mall. Who are we fooling? Guards who have no training and speak no Hebrew? Even if they saw "explosives belt" written in Hebrew [on something] they wouldn't notice and would let the car enter the parking lot," he said.

Security guards are given no training to qualify them as guards before being given guns, he said.

The police are about to introduce new, strict standards including compulsory training for guards, Ben-Yishai said.

Ben-Yishai said he would not hesitate to warn the public not to go to some shopping mall or other if he finds security standards there inadequate.

He said he would not recommend going to the hotels in the Dead Sea, in view of the alarming security shortcomings police inspectors found there after Rosh Hashanah.

The security in a Be'er Sheva's shopping mall was also found lacking, he said.

"I wandered in the city, there's a mall near the central bus terminal and railway station, I was sure I was in Ramallah."

Ben-Yishai blasted the security companies' directors, most of whom were unworthy, unsuitable or "persons of interest to the police," alluding to 19 security companies run by alleged criminals.

"Anyone can open a security company. All you need is to prove you have no criminal record," he said.