Israelis warned of terror attacks abroad

By Anshel Pfeffer, February 18, 2010

Israelis have been warned that there is currently a heightened possibility of a terror attack on an Israeli or Jewish target abroad.

The Counter-terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister's Office has issued a general travel warning, not connected to a specific country, which tells Israelis planning to spend time overseas that the probability of an attack will rise around the second anniversary of the killing of Hizbollah operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, mid-February.

The killing in Tehran of senior Iranian nuclear scientist, Masoud ali-Mahmadi, last month, is also a factor in the raised threat levels.

Israel has not taken responsibility for either of these killings but the travel advisory notes that "Hizbollah has repeatedly blamed Israel" for their deaths and that "these accusations heighten the terror threat to Israelis abroad".

Israeli intelligence analysts believe that there is no change in the strategy of Hizbollah and Iran and that for now they have no interest in an escalation on the Lebanese border. Hizbollah has not launched any kind of attack on Israel via the border since the end of the Second Lebanon War three-and-a-half years ago. The sporadic firings of rockets in that period were carried out by Palestinian organisations allied with al Qaida and were against Hizbollah's wishes.

The Israeli concerns are that Hizbollah, with Iranian support, will try to carry out a "low signature" terror attack on an Israeli or Jewish target in revenge for Mughniyeh, al-Mahmadi and other killings, without taking responsibility.

The two areas of particular concern are South America and Western Europe.

Such an attack could lead to an escalation in Lebanon, a development which Iran could be interested in using to deflect attention away from the increasing sanctions effort against its nuclear programme.

The first Lebanon War in 1982 was triggered by a Palestinian assassination attempt against Israel's ambassador in London at the time, Shlomo Argov.

In the early 1990s, Hizbollah, with Iranian support, bombed the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires as a revenge for the killing by Israel of Hizbollah Secretary General Abbas Moussawi.

Similar attempts were carried out against the embassy in London and Balfour House.

Officials in the Counter-terrorism Bureau stressed that the warning was not connected to the attack in the Indian city of Pune over the weekend and that there was no change as yet to the list of countries that Israelis are advised not to visit.

This list includes Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Malaysia, Togo, Mali and Burkina Faso.

While some Indian intelligence sources have maintained that the Chabad House in Pune was a probable target of the bomb that went off nearby and killed nine people, the official Israeli position is that there is no evidence of this being the case.

Last updated: 4:50pm, February 18 2010