Security Forces Fear Double Hezbollah Revenge Attack in Israel, Abroad

Intelligence fragments hint at Iran, Syria role in planning attack; W. Bank under full closure for Purim.

Jonathan Lis
Amos Harel
Haaretz Correspondent
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Security forces are on high alert in Israel and at Israeli and Jewish institutions abroad before the end of the 40-day mourning period for Hezbollah terror chief Imad Mughniyah, who was assassinated in Damascus last month. A full closure was imposed on the West Bank as of last night.

Iran and Hezbollah blame Israel for the February 12 assassination, and Hezbollah has threatened revenge attacks in Israel. The mourning period ends on Sunday. In the past, extremist Islamic organizations have launched revenge attacks at the end of the mourning period.

Israeli military officials are particularly concerned about possible simultaneous attacks in Israel and on Israeli diplomatic offices and Jewish institutions abroad. Security at many Israeli diplomatic missions has been tightened in response.

Security officials say that Hezbollah wants to "reset the balance of terror vis-a-vis Israel to zero" in the wake of Mughniyah's death, to deter Israel from future attacks on Hezbollah's leaders. To do this, the organization would have to carry out a major attack that would draw international attention.

Israel's intelligence community has gained possession of fragments of information hinting at plans for a Hezbollah revenge attack in coordination with Iran and Syria. Although this intelligence is partial and unfocused, it was enough to send into high alert troops of the Israel Defense Forces at the northern border.

After consulting with security officials, Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a total closure on the West Bank that went into effect at midnight last night and will remain in place until Sunday night. In addition to fears of an attempt to avenge Mughniyah's death, Barak cited the large number of terror attacks and attempted attacks in recent years around the Purim holiday.

The Israel Police are to go on heightened alert from tomorrow. On Monday, when schools reopen after the Purim vacation, the alert level is expected to return to normal levels.

National Police Commissioner David Cohen ordered the threat level raised to three, one below the highest level, with special attention given to places of entertainment and public gathering spots.