Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia are planning to carry out new anti-Israeli attacks around the world, a senior Israeli official involved in counter-terrorism warned on Friday.
“Iran and Hezbollah are planning more attacks overseas,” he told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity and without giving further details.
Israel has been on high alert following bomb incidents in India, Thailand and Georgia on Monday and Tuesday that officials said were aimed at diplomats from the Jewish state.
Top Israeli officials have openly accused Iran of being responsible and have also implicated Iran’s Lebanese Shi’ite ally Hezbollah in several other foiled attempts to harm Israelis in Thailand and Azerbaijan since the start of the year.
But on Thursday, Hezbollah denied its involvement in this week’s attacks against Israeli missions in India and Georgia.
“I assure you that Hezbollah has nothing to do with this,” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told supporters.
Israeli blames Iran’s Quds Force
Another senior Israeli official accused Iran’s shadowy Quds Force on Friday of masterminding the string of attacks against Israeli diplomats abroad this week.
Iran has denied involvement but Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon named Brigadier-General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, a covert arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, as the mastermind.
“We see what is happening in India, Georgia and Thailand. It is the same pattern. The same bomb, the same lab, the same factory,” Yaalon said in a newspaper interview.
“Soleimani is subordinate to the Iranian leaders and is responsible for the special force and for subversive activity against everybody,” Yaalon told the Maariv daily, adding that the Iranian general had coordinated operations with Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas.
The United States blamed the Quds Force last year for an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Iran rejected that as baseless.
U.S. officials have previously also charged Quds proxies with carrying out attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, while a European government source said in October that Britain was looking into possible new Quds plots.
The Netanyahu government was quick to accuse Iran over the attacks, but some analysts have puzzled over why Tehran might risk what say saw as inept and rash actions ̶ especially on the territory of its big oil client India.
Yaalon said Iran was “under economic and political pressure,” a reference to the stiffening of international sanctions meant to curb its controversial nuclear program, and the domestic tensions that they have helped stoke.
Despite Iran denying involvement in this week’s bombings, it has repeatedly vowed to avenge Israel’s alleged assassinations of several of its nuclear scientists in car bombings.
While Israel has neither confirmed nor denied having a role in the covert killings, Yaalon acknowledged that the Jewish state was seen as being responsible.
“This is their answer,” he said, referring to the embassy bombings. “They want to create deterrence, or to take revenge.”
He said Israel feared more attacks, potentially large-scale, on its interests abroad.
A counter-terrorism adviser in Netanyahu’s office warned Israelis to exercise caution while travelling, but in a briefing to the media on Friday provided no details about any geographically specific threats.
“We have generalized information that reflects mounting intentions to carry out terrorist attacks,” said the adviser, who would not be named given the sensitivity of the subject.
Two Iranians arrested
Meanwhile, Thailand has arrested two Iranians in connection with a series of blasts in Bangkok earlier this week, and police said they are looking for an Iranian woman who is thought to have fled the kingdom.
On Friday, police confirmed they were seeking another Iranian in connection with the explosions. A fourth Iranian linked to the incident was detained in Malaysia.
“Once again, we call on Israelis overseas to be vigilant, to be wary of suspicious objects, not to accept any such objects and to follow the advice of the security services in the countries where they are,” the unnamed Israeli official said.
Asked about reports of an Iranian plot to kill Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Singapore earlier this week, which were denied by Singaporean and Israeli officials, he said: “We have no information about that.”
But he acknowledged that “senior Israeli officials travelling overseas are a prime target.”
He also reiterated that Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula was still considered to be the “the most exposed place” for Israelis and cautioned against travel there.
He also recommended that Israelis avoid travelling to southern Thailand.