Israel warns of major Hizbullah attack abroad

Counterterrorism Bureau: Kidnapping threat serious and concrete; MI chief: Group doesn't want war.

Imad Mughniyeh 224.88 (photo credit: Screen capture)
Imad Mughniyeh 224.88
(photo credit: Screen capture)
Israelis overseas face a "concrete and high-level threat" of being kidnapped or killed by Hizbullah agents seeking to avenge an alleged Mossad killing of the Lebanese group's top commander, Imad Mughniyeh, on February 12, 2008. According to the Counterterrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister's Office, Israeli intelligence agencies possess reliable intelligence of a Hizbullah effort to kidnap Israelis and commit a terrorist attack on an Israeli target overseas. "Based on our information, we believe the organization is planning one large revenge attack close to the anniversary of [Mughniyeh's] death," Brig.-Gen. (res.) Elkana Harnof of the Counterterrorism Bureau told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday night. "All we can say publicly is that Hizbullah has gone to enormous effort to prepare various kinds of terror attacks, and the big one is likely going to take place soon," Harnof said. Warnings by the bureau have been known to precede terrorist strikes such as those that have hit Sinai resorts in recent years. Just last week, a media report claimed that Israeli and European intelligence agencies thwarted a Hizbullah attack against an Israeli target in Europe. In a speech on Thursday, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah placed the blame for Mughniyeh's death in Damascus squarely on Israel, and said that his group had yet to carry out its response. He also said that the issue of a prisoner swap between Israel and Hizbullah had yet to be finished, raising concern that it was focusing its attack on kidnapping Israelis. Instructions for Israelis abroad are posted on the Prime Minister's Office Web site, but the principle is simple, Harnof said. "You dramatically reduce the potential for harm by paying a little more attention to your surroundings and taking care to notice strange things happening around you. Report anything out of the ordinary to the local police. Don't accept an unexpected invitation from unknown persons to a meeting or a party or a free meal. Don't bring unfamiliar people into your hotel room. Don't enter a cab that stops of its own initiative," he said. Earlier on Sunday, OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin briefed the cabinet on Hizbullah, telling the ministers that the organization remains "deterred and restrained due to its commitment to the Lebanese elections, Israeli measures, the organization's incomplete rehabilitation efforts and its allegiance to Iran." "On the other hand," Yadlin continued, "Hizbullah is intent on carrying out attacks in February to avenge Mughniyeh's death. It is the same month in which Abbas Musawi was taken out. Yet [Hizbullah] does not want a war." Abbas Musawi was the secretary-general and spiritual leader of Hizbullah from 1991 to 1992, and the mentor of current Hizbullah leader Nasrallah. On February 16, 1992, Abbas, his wife, six-year-old child, and four bodyguards were killed by an IAF helicopter ambush near Jibsheet in southern Lebanon.