Cyprus Police Foil Planned Hezbollah Attacks Against Israeli Targets in Europe

Israeli authorities updated regarding alleged plan by suspected Hezbollah operative to target Israelis and Jewish sites, including synagogues.

Gili Cohen
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Lebanese supporters of Shi'ite Hezbollah movement gather in the southern town of Nabatiyeh on May 24, 2015, to watch a televised address by Hassan Nasrallah.
Lebanese supporters of Shi'ite Hezbollah movement gather in the southern town of Nabatiyeh on May 24, 2015, to watch a televised address by Hassan Nasrallah.Credit: AFP
Gili Cohen

Cypriot police suspect a man they arrested this week of planning an attack on Israeli interests in Europe after they found almost two tons of suspicious materials in his basement, local newspapers reported on Friday.

The Israeli defense establishment was informed by Cypriot authorities about the man's arrest, and said he is suspected of being a Hezbollah operative possibly involved in planning terror attacks.

According to the information given to Israeli defense officials, the Lebanese man was arrested in an apartment containing what an Israeli source said was an "unbelievable" amount of ammonium nitrate and other materials which assessments said were intended for creating large blasts.

Ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer but in large quantities can be mixed with other substances to make a powerful explosive.

The 26-year-old man, Lebanese-born but with a Canadian passport, was detained by police in the EU member state on May 27, after authorities discovered the hoard in the basement of a house.

Three Cypriot newspapers on Friday said authorities were investigating any possible link of the individual with the military wing of Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, which views Israel as its arch enemy.

Two newspapers said it was thought the individual, who has not been named, had a close link with the group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

All three said police suspected Israeli interests were the target, and one said that authorities believed the ammonium nitrate had been amassing at the residence for some time.

According to information provided to the Israeli defense establishment, Cyprus believes the island was to serve as a "point of export" for a series of attacks in Europe. Targets were to include Jewish sites, including synagogues, as well as Western targets.

A source within the Israeli defense establishment said Friday that Hezbollah was the contractor behind the terrorist plan, but it was "it Iran who is (behind the) funding and training.

"This is a terror infrastructure ready to strike the moment it is given a chance, like the one in Burgas," they said, referencing a 2012 terror attack attributed to Hezbollah that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian driver at the Black Sea city of Burgas.

"This is additional proof of Iran's involvement in terror and the infrastructure of operatives, instructors and funders it provides," the source said.

Cyprus is a popular holiday destination for Israelis and the island hosts an Israeli embassy in Nicosia.

The suspect arrived in Cyprus in the third week of May and had been staying at the two-storey house in a residential suburb of the coastal town of Larnaca.

Police have declined to speculate on the case, other than saying that all possibilities were being explored.

Judicial authorities have ordered that all court proceedings be held behind closed doors, citing national security. The suspect was detained in custody for eight days by a magistrate on Thursday.

Despite its proximity to the Middle East, Cyprus has seen little militant-related activity in recent decades. Its last major security incident was a botched attack on the Israeli embassy in 1988, which killed three people.

In 2013 a Swedish citizen of Lebanese descent was jailed in Cyprus on charges of plotting an attack on Israeli tourists.

He said he had been asked by Hezbollah to track the movements of Israeli tourists on the island, but denied he was planning any attack.

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