Israel issues travel warning to Bangkok

Warning comes after Thai authorities arrest Hezbollah operative in the capital; Israeli embassy, synagogues possible targets in terror plot.

By
January 14, 2012 22:46
3 minute read.
Koh Chang, Thailand

Koh Chang, Thailand 311. (photo credit: Elana Kirsh)

 
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The Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a “severe travel warning” on Friday advising Israeli nationals to stay away from Bangkok after Thai authorities announced they had arrested a Lebanese Hezbollah operative in the capital.

According to the warning, Israelis should refrain from traveling to Bangkok in the “near future,” not congregate at spots known to be favored by Israelis, refuse to accept packages from strangers and raise their overall vigilance.

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On Friday, The Jerusalem Post reported on an Israeli decision to raise the level of alert surrounding its delegations overseas out of concern that Iran and Hezbollah are trying to attack Israel to avenge the assassination last week of a senior nuclear scientist in Tehran and ahead of the anniversary of the killing of Hezbollah’s military chief in 2008.

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The travel advisory came after Thai authorities announced Friday that they had arrested a Hezbollah operative after receiving an intelligence tip from Israel.

Thailand’s deputy prime minister said that police had stepped up security and he was confident the situation was under control.

A Thai Defense Ministry source said Israeli intelligence had contacted officials in Bangkok on December 22 with information that two or three suspects could be planning an attack in Thailand.

However, the individuals traveled to the south and left the country.

The Israelis alerted Thai officials again on January 8 of the danger of an attack around January 13-15 in areas where there are often large concentrations of Western tourists, such as the Khao San Road, a site popular among young backpackers.

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The arrest was made after the second Israeli warning, the source said, adding that Thai security officials were working closely with the United States and Israel.

Defense Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha said the Israeli Embassy and synagogues could also be targeted and that the attacks could come in the form of car bombs.

The US Embassy also warned of a possible attack by “foreign terrorists” and told its citizens to be careful in areas of the capital frequented by tourists.

“We’re warning all US citizens to take caution when visiting public areas where Western tourists are known to gather in Bangkok,” said Walter Braunohler, a spokesman at the embassy.

Hezbollah is believed to be actively seeking revenge for the assassination of its military commander Imad Mughniyeh in 2008, and over the years there have been reports of a number of plots that were thwarted, including an attempt to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Bulgarian Defense Minister Anu Anguelov will arrive in Tel Aviv for talks with Defense Minister Ehud Barak amid reports of a terror threat to Israeli tourists in Sofia.

Barak and Anguelov will discuss ways to increase defense cooperation between the countries and to add content to a memorandum of understanding the two ministers signed in January 2010.

Since the deterioration in its ties with Turkey, Israel has looked to bolster its alliances with Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Italy. Barak held talks with his Cypriot and Greek counterparts this past week during meetings in Tel Aviv and Athens.

Last week, the head of security at the Israeli Transportation Ministry asked Bulgarian authorities to increase security around Israeli tourists in Sofia after a suspicious package was discovered on a bus that was supposed to transport the tourists from Turkey to Bulgaria

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