(photo credit: AP)
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has beefed up security for officials traveling overseas, because of concern that Hizbullah will target one of them to avenge the assassination of its terror chief Imad Mughniyeh two years ago, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Mughniyeh was killed by a meticulously planned car-bombing in the heart of Damascus on February 12, 2008. He was Hizbullah's military commander, liaison to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and in charge of the group's overseas operations.
During his meetings in Turkey on Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak urged his counterparts to do more to crack down on Hizbullah terrorist activity in the country. In December, Turkish security forces foiled a plot by Hizbullah to strike Israeli and American targets. Other plots were thwarted in Egypt and Azerbaijan.
The Shin Bet is also investigating the possibility that Hizbullah and the Iranians were behind the recent failed bomb attack on an Israeli diplomatic convoy in Jordan.
Israel's assumption is that Hizbullah will try to avenge Mughniyeh's assassination overseas, to avoid drawing Lebanon into a major conflict.
"One of the ways to do this is to target a senior Israeli official traveling overseas," one defense official explained.
As a result, the Shin Bet has begun to provide protection for government and defense establishment officials who travel overseas. One of the officials, who could not be named, was recently accompanied overseas by a state-provided bodyguard.
So far at least six attacks are known to have been prevented, defense officials said, noting that the number could be higher. The failed attack in Turkey was reportedly to be carried out by Iranian agents posing as tourists. According to media reports, the Turks thwarted their plans after receiving a tip from a Western intelligence agency, possibly an Israel one.