Ana Maria Luca

Hezbollah’s other war with Israel

Hezbollah’s alleged attempts at avenging the assassination of military commander Imad Moughnieh

According to Israeli intelligence, Hezbollah has tried to bomb Jewish targets in 11 countries, but succeeded only once, in Bulgaria (NOW)

Hezbollah retaliated last Wednesday for the Israeli attack on the Golan Heights that killed six Hezbollah members — including Imad Moughnieh’s son, Jihad — and six Iranian Revolutionary Guards. However, with Wednesday’s exchange of fire in the Shebaa Farms, which left at least three Israeli soldiers dead and several wounded, Hezbollah reportedly sent a message to the Israeli government saying that the group would stop the border attacks.


According to analysts in Beirut, neither Israel nor Hezbollah are interested in starting a full-fledged war at home. But the Party of God and the Mossad have been fighting another war, away from the disputed Shebaa Farms, but equally intense.


After the death of former military commander Imad Moughnieh in February 2008 in Damascus, Hezbollah vowed to avenge his death.  The Israeli intelligence services as well as several Western security agencies attributed several attacks and foiled plots on Israeli and Jewish objectives around the world to Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsor. The recent uncovering of a Mossad spy in the high ranking structures of Hezbollah also shed some light into the party’s efforts to avenge Moughnieh. According to reports, it was the spy inside Hezbollah who tipped off Israeli intelligence to the party’s plots in several countries.


Hezbollah has denied its involvement in several of these plots.  Several investigations have obvious gaps and most of the time it was the Mossad that pointed to the possible plots. But some of the arrested perpetrators, as well as some of the evidence found on them, indicated that they were sent on missions by their Hezbollah commanders.



Syria – February 2008 / January 2015


Imad Moughnieh, Hezbollah’s military commander, wanted by Interpol in connection with the 1994 Buenos Aires Jewish Center bombing, is killed in a bombing on the outskirts of Damascus. His body was reportedly never retrieved from the scorched car. Hezbollah accused Israel of assassinating him and vowed to avenge him.


In January of this year, US security sources leak to the Washington Post that it was the CIA in cooperation with the Mossad that assassinated Moughnieh in 2008.


Azerbaijan – May 2008


Police in Baku intercepted a car filled with explosives, cameras, surveillance equipment, pistols, and reconnaissance photos of the Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan. Two Lebanese men were arrested: Ali Karaki, reportedly a veteran of Hezbollah’s external operations unit at the time; and explosives expert Ali Najmeddine. Pictures of the suspects were never released.


Their trial took place at the beginning of 2009 but was kept behind closed doors. According to information released to the media by police and quoted in several newspapers, the two Hezbollah members traveled back and forth from Lebanon to Azerbaijan and neighboring Iran using Iranian passports.


According to an article published in the LA Times, the suspects had planned to place three or four car bombs around the Israeli Embassy and to set them off simultaneously. The Azeri police also found hundreds of pounds of explosives. Both men were sentenced to 15 years in prison after Najmeddine admitted in court that he was a Hezbollah member, had fought the IDF in the July 2006 War, and that he had been sent to Iran and then to Azerbaijan with a mission to collect information of the Israeli Embassy in Baku. Despite the sentence, both men were released in 2010 and deported to Lebanon. The reasons were never made public.



Egypt – April 2009


Egyptian authorities arrested 49 men and accused them of planning attacks on Israeli and Egyptian targets in the Sinai Peninsula in the name of Hezbollah and with the alleged help of the Muslim Brotherhood. The men allegedly planned several attacks in Taba, a resort popular among Israeli tourists.  


An Egyptian court convicted 26 men, four in absentia, and sentenced them variously to prison and hard labor. Sami Shihab, whom Hezbollah confirmed was a member, was given a life sentence. Hezbollah announced in 2011 that Shihab had escaped from prison and returned to Lebanon in February of that year, during the anti-Mubarak protests.



Turkey – November 2009


Turkish intelligence foiled in 2009 an alleged plot to attack Jewish and Israeli targets, such as an Israeli airliner and Jewish community centers, in Istanbul. According to Haaretz, Hezbollah had set up a network of Iranian agents posing as tourists in Istanbul. There is no information pertaining to any arrests.  


Thailand – January 2012


Hussein Atris, a 47-year-old Shiite- Lebanese businessman with Swedish citizenship, was arrested for immigration reasons at Bangkok’s international airport on 12 January 2012 and charged with terrorism. After interrogating him, Thai police also announced they had seized four tons of fertilizer used in bomb making from a storage facility he had rented in Bangkok. Just after Atris’s arrest, police announced they were also looking for his business partner. Thai authorities linked both men to Hezbollah.


Hezbollah politburo member Ghaleb Abu Zainab deniedthat Atris had any connection with the party. Atris also deniedlinks to Hezbollah. He was sentenced to 32 months in prison.



India and Georgia – February 2012


A bomb attached by a motorcyclist to an Israeli Embassy car transporting a diplomat’s wife wounded her, the driver and two passers-by on 13 February 2012. Another bomb planted at the same time in a diplomatic car of the Israeli Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, failed to detonate.


The Israeli government immediately accused Iran and Hezbollah for the attacks; both denied involvement.


Police in Delhi arrested a journalist who worked for an Iranian press agency and who said he had cased the Israeli Embassy there. In July 2012, The Times of India reported that Delhi Police had concluded that “terrorists belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards,” were responsible for the attack.


According to an Israeli analyst interviewed by Time magazine, “they put the bomb on the right side of the car, because it had to explode on the fuel tank. But in India they ride on the left side, and the tank is on the left side.”


Azerbaijan – January 2012


The shadow war between Hezbollah, Iran and Israel moved once again to Azerbaijan in January 2012. Azeri state TV announced that police had arrested an “unspecified number of people linked to Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah,” suspected of planning attacks in the country, according to an Al Arabiya report. A month prior, authorities in Baku had arrested two men with alleged links to Iranian intelligence on suspicion of plotting to kill prominent Israelis in Azerbaijan.



Cyprus – July 2012


Swedish-Lebanese Houssam Taleb Yaacoub, 24, was arrested in July 2012, tried for associating with a criminal organization (Hezbollah) and criminal intent, and sentenced to four years in prison in Cyprus. Yaacoub was caught by police while casing Kosher restaurants, hotels and the Larnaca airport. Yaacoub told Cypriot police that he was hired by a Hezbollah liaison who called himself “Ayman” but never disclosed his real name. The young Lebanese was being paid $800 per month to use his Swedish passport, travel across Europe, deliver mysterious packages without checking their content and to canvas security locations and Israeli tourist hangouts in Cyprus and Turkey.


The same elements would be found two years later in Peru, where another Hezbollah member was arrested on suspicion of planning an attack.



Bulgaria – July 2012


Two weeks after Yaacoub was arrested in Cyprus, on 18 July 2012, a bus with Israeli tourists blew up in the tiny summer resort of Burgas, on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. The bomber died in the attack. Israeli and US intelligence immediately pointed at Hezbollah.


In July 2013, Bulgarian authorities released photos of two other suspects; both Hezbollah operatives with dual citizenship. Australian-Lebanese citizen Milad Farah and Canadian-Lebanese Hassan al-Hajj allegedly planned the bombing. They are believed to be in Lebanon and the Bulgarian government requested their extradition. Prosecutors said the third suspect, the bomber, alsoLebanese, was killed from a distance.  


According to media reports, Israeli intelligence was tipped off by its sources inside Hezbollah that an attack was being planned in Bulgaria, but decided to sacrifice the civilians in order to protect a well-placed spy.



Lebanon – December 2013


Hassan al-Lakkis was assassinated in front of his house the southern suburbs of Beirut.  Hezbollah accused Israel, saying that Laqqis had survived several other assassination attempts.


Yigal Palmor, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, denied Israeli involvement — a rarity in the country’s diplomacy. Two Sunni extremist groups, the Free Sunnis of Baalbek and Battalion of the Muslim Umma, claimed responsibility.



Thailand – April 2014


French-Lebanese Daoud Farhat and Filipino-Lebanese Youssef Ayad were arrested on 13 April 2014 in Bangkok after Thai police received intelligence from Israel about a planned plot targeting Israeli tourists.

Ayad reportedly admitted that he was a Hezbollah operative and had entered Thailand to carry out a bomb attack against Israeli tourists during the Passover holiday. However, two months later, Thai authorities were still holding the two suspects on immigration charges because they couldn’t gather enough evidence to convict the pair. It is not clear whether they were later deported to Lebanon.



Peru – October 2014


On 28 October, Peruvian police raided an apartment in Lima and arrested a 28-year-old Lebanese man with a passport from Sierra Leone. Mohammad Ghaleb Hamdar, born in 1986 in Haret Hreik, admitted being employed by Hezbollah, that his handler had told him to marry his Peruvian girlfriend in order to get a residency permit, and had given him a fake identity and fake documents.


Hamdar is now in detention in Lima and awaits trial after an investigation of more than one year.



Lebanon – December 2014


Hezbollah uncovered and arrested a top official who allegedly spied for the Mossad and sabotaged all anti-Israeli operations abroad. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged the existence of the spy for the first time in January in an interview with Al Mayadeen TV station.


Ana Maria Luca tweets @aml1609

According to Israeli intelligence, Hezbollah has tried to bomb Jewish targets in 11 countries, but succeeded only once, in Bulgaria. (NOW)

  • manjarola

    Ana Maria: You forgot Argentina. Irãn did order hezb to do the dirty job.

    February 4, 2015

  • aml16091

    I didn't forget. These were just after Imad Moughnieh's assassination in 2008. AMIA was in 1994.

    February 4, 2015