Fears for security of European Jews

Terror plot threat to IDF event in Paris raises fears of attack campaign against the diaspora

By Ian Sparks and Anshel Pfeffer, September 17, 2010

Community leaders have expressed concern that European Jews are being targeted by terrorists after it was revealed that suicide bombers trained in Gaza had planned to bomb a community event in Paris.

"This would seem to be exactly the sort of threat that shows why CST and the Jewish community need to remain vigilant," said Mark Gardner, spokesman for the Community Security Trust.

He added that the organisation will seek to learn "every possible lesson" from the foiled attack and share these with the community and the police.

The French target was a fundraiser for IDF soldiers in March, at which the commander of the navy, Rear Admiral Eli Marom, was guest of honour.

Security was stepped up around Jewish institutions there following the arrest of the group by Egyptian security forces as they attempted to board a plane to France.

The thwarted attack was part of what France's interior minister Brice Hortefeux described as a "worrying spiral" of threats to the Jewish community there. Threatening letters were recently posted to two community centres in the city. And France's intelligence chief Bernard Squarcini warned this week that the risk of an attack on French soil has "never been higher".

He told Journal du Dimanche that one terrorist was being extradited to France, accused of planning to blow himself up at the Libi Fund event, attended by over 1,000 people.

However, according to Israeli sources, the would-be bombers were French citizens of Palestinian and North African origin, who smuggled their way into the Gaza Strip in order to train in a terror camp identified with the Islamic Jihad. They then entered Egypt through one of the tunnels in Rafah, and were arrested by the Egyptians several months ago en route for France.

The man referred to by Mr Squarcini, however, apparently managed to make his way to Belgium, from where he is being extradited.

Interior Minister Mr Hortefeux said there had been 47 physical attacks against Jewish institutions in France this year, and another 190 threats.

Joel Mergui, head of France's Jewish association the Consistoire, said: "We ask the authorities to ensure continued protection of our community."

Israeli intelligence believes that there have been plans by Palestinian groups and Hizbollah to launch a major attack in Europe on an Israeli or Jewish target.

Hizbollah has not launched any attacks on Israel through the Lebanese border since the Second Lebanon War. Israeli experts believe that Hizbollah is reluctant to jeopardise its internal standing in Lebanon by provoking an Israeli retaliation. The movement, though, wants to avenge the assassination of its military chief, Imad Mughniyeh, two-and-a-half years ago, which it ascribes to the Mossad. It is believed to have already made two attempts to attack Israeli embassies in Europe.

Hamas is also reluctant to allow a major attack on the Gaza border since it is still rebuilding the ruins left by Operation Cast Lead. But some Hamas elements and other Palestinian groups are trying to orchestrate attacks on Israeli targets from alternative bases, using Gaza as a training ground. Last month, Hamas launched a rocket attack on Eilat and Aqaba in Jordan from Sinai. It is believed that the perpetrators came from Gaza and used missiles that were cached in Sinai.

Last updated: 11:15am, September 17 2010