Israeli Bus Driver Recounts Long Minutes of Terror Attack

Witnesses describe attackers dressed in Egyptian military fatigues. "I thought they were soldiers repairing the fence," Bilefsky recalls. "I slowed a bit, and then I caught a hail of bullets."

The driver of Egged Bus 392 was headed along Route 12, about 27 kilometers north of Eilat, when he saw the car up ahead signaling frantically. Benny Bilefsky slowed the bus, thinking there had been a traffic accident. But then he saw two Egyptian soldiers in camouflage uniforms doing something to the border fence just 15 meters from the road, where an Egyptian army post stands on the other side.

"I thought they were soldiers repairing the fence," Bilefsky recalls. "I slowed a bit, and then I caught a hail of bullets."

Bus driver Eilat terror attack - Reuters/Lior Grundman - August 2011
Reuters/Lior Grundman

"I felt as if they were aiming right at me, because a bullet entered right by my head and shattered the glass that separates my seat from the passengers' seats," he said. "In the first seat behind me were two tourists who were hurt by shards of shattered glass, and then I heard a burst from an automatic weapon. I pressed down on the gas pedal, decided not to stop, took my telephone, dialed 100 and called the police."

Bilefsky continued driving on Route 12 until he hit the permanent checkpoint at Netafim, 12 kilometers northwest of Eilat. An ambulance was waiting, and he unloaded his passengers; 31 of them were taken to the hospital. There, Bilefsky saw a large number of soldiers en route to the scene of the attack.

Bilefsky, 67, of Be'er Sheva, has worked for Egged for 44 years. He has spent the last 25 years driving Bus 392, he said, which mainly ferries soldiers between their homes in Eilat and their bases.

Thursday is the day when many soldiers return home for the weekend, "so the bus was already full when I left Be'er Sheva at 8:05 A.M., and some of the soldiers were even standing," he recalls. "After the shooting, I looked in the mirror while I continued to drive, and I saw that the soldiers on the bus were treating the gunshot victims."

They also used their own phones to call the police, he said.

Aharon - a resident of Lod who was on his way to Eilat for a vacation with his wife and two children - was most likely the driver of the car that Bilefsky saw signaling up ahead. Aharon said he saw the men in Egyptian army uniforms and feared they were terrorists; he tried to signal other cars not to go any farther. He even tried to block the road with his car.

S., an officer from Eilat, was one of Bilefsky's passengers on Bus 392. She said she heard gunfire, followed by people screaming, and knew it was a terror attack.

"I immediately took off all my clothes, even my bra, to make tourniquets for people who were hit and who had lost blood," said S., who was covered in blood from the people she had treated, although she herself was virtually unscathed. "We all know each other; some of the [other] soldiers are my friends. We were in the same grade. The bus kept traveling, and then we heard booms."

L., another soldier on the bus, said she was initially standing on the bus, since there were no seats left. Then another soldier and fellow Eilat resident, G.M., offered her his seat.

"Just as we switched places, the shooting began, and he got a burst in his leg," she said.

G.M.'s mother, Smadar, had known that her daughter, also a soldier, was on Bus 392, and she feared for her daughter's safety. In the end, it turned out to be her son - whom she hadn't known was aboard - who was wounded in yesterday's attack.