Israel rejects Sunday Times report it has anti-terror hit team at London Games
According to the report, Israel has upped its level of security around its Olympic delegation in the wake of Wednesday's deadly suicide attack at Burgas.
Israel on Sunday said it was vigilant ahead of the Olympic Games in London but denied a report in Britain's Sunday Times that it had sent a team to hunt down militants preparing an attack on its athletes.
"There is definitely vigilance in terms of intelligence and operationally ahead of the Olympic Games," Defense Minister Ehud Barak told reporters. "Naturally it is an attractive event, and even without concrete warnings, we must be ready and alert, first and foremost because such things have already happened," he said, referring to a deadly attack at the 1972 Munich Games which left 11 Israelis dead. "We remember Munich."
According to the report, Israel has upped its level of security around its Olympic delegation in the wake of Wednesday's deadly suicide attack at Burgas, a Bulgarian resort on the Black Sea, which killed five Israeli tourists and their local driver.
So far, Bulgarian officials, working with the CIA, FBI and Interpol, have yet to identify the suicide bomber behind Wednesday's attack, although Israel has blamed Iran and its Shi'ite ally Hezbollah.
According to the Sunday Times report, Israel has dispatched agents from the Shin Bet security service and Mossad to track down militants planning such an attack in conjunction with Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and the Quds Force, the special operations unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
The Mossad, says the Sunday Times, "is hunting a group of white Europeans who are thought to have converted to Islam and to be working with the Iranian Quds force and Hezbollah. One of the Israelis' targets is thought to be a terrorist carrying a U.S. passport under the name of David Jefferson, who is believed to have fled after the Burgas attack ... and ... is thought to have another powerful device" like that used in last week's bombing, said the report.
But Amos Gilad, head of policy at Barak's office, dismissed the report as fiction. "Intelligence doesn't work like that, you don't suddenly send dozens of agents to chase phantoms," he told Army Radio.
"There has to be precise information and a rigorous collection of information. "We have to keep cool headed and balanced. There are attempts by Hezbollah and Iran in all sorts of countries, but... we must try and keep a sense of proportion, despite the difficulty of the situation."
Quoting unnamed security experts, the Sunday Times said the Quds Force had recruited several white European converts to Islam, including two from Germany, one from Sweden and two Britons.
Israel's 38-strong team of athletes has begun arriving at the Olympic village in Stratford, east London, as Britain prepares to launch its biggest ever peacetime security operation.
MI5 and New Scotland Yard are reportedly thought to have raised their threat assessment in light of the terrorist attack in Bulgaria on Wednesday.
According to the Sunday Times, more than 17,000 troops and 7,000 private security guards will secure the Olympic Park and 26 other venues, and an additional 12,500 police will be deployed to patrol London's streets in a "series of 'rings of steel.'" The report also states that "panic rooms have been installed beneath the stadium as a haven for VIPs and spectators in the event of an attack.