The viable device, which detectives describe as an "anti-personnel bomb", was made safe outside Xtra-Vision on the Antrim Road.
Police say it may have been planted on Sunday in a bid to lure officers.
Chief Superintendent Mark Hamilton, who is leading the police operation, confirmed it was "designed to kill".
"We're looking at a device that's designed to scatter shrapnel across a wide area and kill people who are standing out in the open."
"On Sunday, a police patrol was called to the Xtra-Vision in what seemed to be a legitimate call and police officers did attend", he said.
"Perhaps this bomb was in place on Sunday for those police officers, to kill them.
"Many hundreds of people have probably walked past the device while it was abandoned by these terrorists and their lives were clearly at risk."
Dissident group Óglaigh na hÉireann is believed to be behind the device after a recognised codeword was used in the last in a series of telephone warnings.
Bomb Antrim Road big enough to kill. Police think terrorists had planned to lure in police.
UTV's Sharon O'Neill on Twitter (@sharon_utv)
Chief Supt Hamilton says police aren't yet satisfied that the area is safe and traffic diversions will remain in place until Thursday afternoon.
The army bomb squad is still examining a second suspicious device, which is believed to be a component part of the bomb, found outside the video rental store.
The PSNI say the ongoing closures are due to the complex nature of the operation, resulting in widespread disruption to local residents and commuters.
The Antrim Road has been cordoned off in both directions from the Limestone Road and Fortwilliam Park. Motorists driving into the city from the north have been advised to use the M2 or the Crumlin Road and local diversions via Cavehill.
Up to 100 homes and businesses in the area were evacuated when the initial alert was sparked at 3pm on Tuesday.
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said police had received three phone calls in 24 hours. However, the information given had caused great confusion.
"If they [the police] had the information, the proper information, at least we would be able to bring it to a close and people would be able to get back into the house.
"There is absolutely no support for it - I condemn it outright."
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds has also condemned those responsible describing the ongoing disruption as "scandalous."
"I understand that three coded warnings have been received this week, first saying an explosive device had been left in the Antrim Road area, before subsequently specifying the Glandore area," the DUP MP said.
"Those responsible prove only how totally inconsiderate they are of other peoples' well-being and I condemn their actions utterly," he added.
He said that it was clear they have "nothing to offer society only a return to the fears and disruption of the past."
Temporary shelter was provided on Tuesday night at Fortwilliam and McCrory Presbyterian Church.
Iris Morton, a pensioner, said she didn't "think a lot" of the people behind the device.
"I think they have too much time on their hands actually - that's my view," she said, "because I've lived in that area 50 years."
A local resident, she said she had never experienced anything like it before.
Police thanked the local residents for their generosity and patience since the security operation began.