Israelis in Europe Warned of Hezbollah Kidnap Threat

Intelligence points to Hezbollah plan to avenge Mughniyeh assassination by kidnapping Israelis abroad.

Israel's defense establishment has issued a warning to several Israeli business people working in Europe to return to Israel due to a strong possibility that the Lebanese militia Hezbollah will attempt to kidnap an Israeli national abroad.

According to intelligence gathered by Israel, Hezbollah plans to kidnap an Israeli in order to avenge the assassination of the organization's second in command, Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car bombing in Damascus in February 2008. Hezbollah has charged Israel with masterminding the assassination, but Israel has denied the allegations.

A source in the defense establishment said Thursday that the warning, which was personally conveyed to several people, was not a blanket warning, but rather stemmed from pinpoint intelligence. According to the source, a decision was made in recent months to lower the security sensitivity threshold, and now Israeli business people are issued warnings even if the intelligence points to a general threat, and not a threat facing them specifically.

"The vigilance for a Hezbollah revenge kidnapping is still very high," said the source. "In the past, we warned people only when we had specific information regarding plans to harm them, but now, the threat is so high, that any piece of information, even if it is general, prompts us to warn Israelis of the potential threat."

The Prime Minister's Office Counter-Terrorism Bureau, in cooperation with other intelligence bodies, is charged with coordinating and updating a list of "personally threatened" individuals who could potentially become victims of assassinations or kidnappings abroad.

Since the Mughniyeh's assassination, several Hezbollah attempts to carry out revenge attacks have been foiled. Among them an attempted attack against an Israeli embassy in a central Asian country, an attempted attack against Israeli targets in Canada and attempts to kidnap Israeli businessmen in western Africa and the Persian Gulf.