So far 2013 has seen a greatly reduced threat from Hezbollah than the same period in 2012. Common sense would chalk this up to the increasing ferocity of the Syrian civil war but does this make them less of a threat?
The most recent Hezbollah headlines appeared when their operative Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, who was arrested in Cyprus in July 2012, was found guilty by a Cypriot court on five charges including participation in a criminal organization and assisting in the preparation of a criminal act.
Although terrorism charges were originally laid at Yacoub’s door they were dropped by the prosecution the New York Times reports. Yaacoub, who has joint Swedish-Lebanese citizenship, was arrested just days before a Hezbollah bomb killed five Israeli holiday makers and a Bulgarian national in Burges, Bulgaria. According to the Washington Post Yacoub told police that “I was just collecting information about the Jews…This is what my organization is doing, everywhere in the world.”
Throughout 2012 Hezbollah and their Iranian allies, the Al Quds Brigade, launched plots all around the world. Some were semi successful and others spectacularly failed. In New Delhi last year a bomb attached to a car wounded an Israeli diplomat’s wife. In Bangkok a man reported by The Times of London as “allegedly belonging to an Iranian terrorist cell” injured five people including himself when he threw an explosive at Thai security services. Another member of the same cell, Mohammad Hazaei, 42, was apprehended while he waited to board a flight out of the country. A month prior to that incident a 48 year old man, identified as Swedish – Lebanese citizen Atris Hussein who was reported by Y-Net as having links to Hezbollah, was arrested by Thai police while attempting to flee the country. When police searched an address he gave them they found large quantities of explosives and other bomb making material.
Attempted attacks on Israelis were not limited to the Far East, Iranian and Hezbollah operatives were thwarted at the last minute in Azerbaijan and Georgia as well as in Africa. Add to this the fact that Yacoub admitted in court to operating as a courier for Hezbollah in France, Turkey and Holland in addition to Cyprus and a picture of the organization’s global reach emerges.
I caught up with Dr Ely Karmon, Senior Research Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya and expert on counter terrorism to find get his take on the Shi’ite terror group. He says that their lack of success is unlikely to deter Hezbollah from planning more attacks against both Jews and Israelis; “I’d expect them to operate in countries where local law enforcement is weak and corrupt and there is little political will to stop them. In India the diplomatic fallout for Iran after the attack on our diplomats was low and the same in Thailand”.
With regards to Hezbollah activity in Europe he says it all depends on “whether the European Union will have the courage to label Hezbollah, or at least what they describe as the military wing of Hezbollah, as a terrorist organization.” Quoting “intelligence sources” Dr Karmon said that there were over 20 attempted and foiled Hezbollah attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets around the world in 2012 alone.
So far 2013 has been a much quieter year for Israelis and Jews vis a vis Hezbollah, something that Dr Karmon attributes to the situation in Syria. Whether 2013 will see a decrease in activity on the part of the Shi’ite terror group remains to be seen but no one in the intelligence community and certainly not Dr Karmon is banking on it.