An El Al airplane in flight.
An El Al airplane in flight. Photo by Archive
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A Lebanese man who was detained by Cyprus police for planning attacks against Israeli tourists was planning the attacks for Hezbollah, local media quoted security officials as saying on Saturday.

According to press reports from the newspapers Sigma Live and Phileleftheros, security forces in Cyprus arrested a 24-year-old Lebanese citizen, who also holds a Swedish passport, after receiving information from Israeli intelligence. The man was in possession of photographs of Israeli targets, and information on Israeli airlines flying back and forth from Cyprus.

On Friday, the police spokesman Andreas Angelides said that the Cypriot authorities had "an individual in custody on possible charges pertaining to terrorism laws."

The suspect came to Cyprus as a tourist on Thursday, July 5. Immediately after that, an urgent message was transferred to Cyprus from Israeli intelligence, saying that the man intended to carry out attacks. Last Saturday, July 7, after a day of tracking the suspect, Cypriot security forces raided the hotel of the Lebanese citizen in the southern city of Limassol, and arrested him in his room.

His detention was not made public, and the Lebanese citizen was brought in for a closed hearing in a local courthouse, at the end of which his detention was extended by five days. On Saturday, he was brought to the courthouse once again, and his detention was extended by another week.

The Cypriot newspaper Sigma Live reported that the man initially denied any connection to terrorist activity, but that after intensive questioning, he admitted that he was a member of Hezbollah. According to the report, Cypriot security forces found documents in his possession that indicated he was the head of a terror cell that was planning attacks against Israeli targets.

Investigation of the man revealed that he planned to blow up a plane or a tour bus. The newspaper Phileleftheros reported that the suspect was in possession of flight records of Israeli airlines in Cyprus. He was also in possession of information on tour buses carrying Israeli tourists, as well as lists of places frequented by Israeli tourists on the island.

The Israeli embassy in Cyprus was updated on the details of the investigation, which is still underway. The authorities are trying to locate explosives held by the suspect and other operatives who managed to enter the country.

Hezbollah operatives with Swedish passports have attempted to carry out attacks against Israeli targets abroad in the past. Hezbollah member Hussein Idris, who was arrested in Thailand in January 2012 on suspicion that he intended to target Israelis with a car bomb, was also a Swedish citizen.

Hezbollah holds Israel responsible for the killing of a senior member of the organization, Imad Mughniyeh, in February 2008 in Damascus. Hezbollah has tried to avenge his death with bomb attacks against Israeli embassies around the world, and with the kidnapping or assasination of Israeli businessmen or senior officials abroad. So far, all these attempts have been thwarted by the Mossad and foreign intelligence agencies.

Read this article in Hebrew