Lebanese terror suspect detained in Cyprus for targeting Israeli tourists

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Erato Kozakou Marcoullis, the foreign minister of Cyprus,

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Erato Kozakou Marcoullis, the foreign minister of Cyprus

The Cypriot authorities have detained a Lebanese national for plotting attacks against Israeli nationals on the island.

An attack against Israeli tourists in Cyprus appears to have been preempted by the arrest of a Lebanese man who had been tracking Israelis on the island, Cypriot security authorities revealed on Saturday.

The 24-year-old man, thought to be a Swedish passport holder of Lebanese extraction, was arrested on July 7 and was being detained following remand hearings held behind closed doors, Sigma TV reported. He has not been charged with any offense.

Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said, “We can confirm the arrest of a 24-year-old foreign national for specific, serious offenses, and who is in custody by order of the court.”

It was not the first time that a Lebanese-Swedish man has been accused of plotting attacks against Israeli targets. In January, Thai authorities arrested Hussein Idris, a Lebanese- Swedish national, together with another Lebanese man on suspicion that they were plotting a series of bomb attacks against Israeli targets in Bangkok.

Israeli diplomats have been on high alert amid predictions that Hezbollah is trying to avenge the assassination of its military commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in 2008, which it attributes to the Mossad.

Sigma TV’s Web portal reported that the Lebanese-Swedish man had been tracking the movement of Israeli tourists on the island, while Cypriot newspaper Phileleftheros said he was trying to pinpoint areas frequented by Israelis and the buses they used.

A government source said the arrest took place following information received from foreign intelligence agencies. Other media reported that the Mossad had provided Cypriot officials with information about the suspect.

Interestingly, (and confusingly) the Times of Israel states that the Lebanese national was travelling on a Saudi passport, although Israel Hayom echoes the description of the suspect in the JPost as a Swedish-Lebanese national.

Israel Hayom also provides an interesting point of view about the behind-the-scenes work carried out by international intelligence agencies, including Mossad:

Every few weeks, we’re hit by the headline: Terror attack against Israelis targets is thwarted. What changes is the target — Thailand, India and Georgia at the start of the year, Turkey in the spring and Kenya just last month were replaced Saturday by Cyprus. A Hezbollah operative was arrested while gathering intelligence on Israel targets.

The media, eager to report, swamps us with the details, some more accurate than others, That’s the way it goes when the local authorities are reluctant to release details, and the “foreign intelligence agency” that volunteered the information lurks in the shadows. Only its name — Mossad according to reports in Cyprus (anyway, it always sounds more impressive in English) — leaves a trail of fog in its wake, like something out of an old detective movie.

Usually behind these headlines, for all spy agencies, lies painstaking intelligence work involving collecting information, tracking suspects and scrutinizing the intelligence, and principally international cooperation that culminates in actually being able to put a hand on “the Lebanese with the Swedish passport” who’s planning an attack. The man-hours, extensive efforts, links and resources invested in thwarting this attack or any other on Israelis will never be published. And it doesn’t matter whether the attack was scuttled at the intelligence-gathering stage or seconds before it was about to be carried out — the bottom line is that yesterday, we could check off another thwarted attack.


International efforts may be working, but in Israel we are growing comfortably numb. For most Israelis, the thwarted attack in Cyprus passed almost unnoticed — just another headline about another terrorist who failed to carry out another attack. On the whole, this is a healthy approach that enables us to live a normal life, safe in the knowledge that people out there are working hard to foil the attacks.

Nonetheless, we should show a little more responsibility, both as civilians and tourists when acknowledging these threats; often, it could be what makes the difference when it comes to getting home safely.

I think the average Israeli already does show a great deal of responsibility when it comes to paying heed to security warnings, although there is always room for improvement.

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