Admission of a Hezbollah operative asked to collect information about sites frequented by Israeli tourists and their transportation made public by Cyprus.

Issued on: 21/02/2013 Type: Article

The Golden Arches hotel in Limassol, one of the sites about which the Hezbollah operative gathered information (Picture from the Golden Arches website)
The Golden Arches hotel in Limassol, one of the sites about which the Hezbollah operative gathered information (Picture from the Golden Arches website)

Overview

1. On February 20, 2013, Cyprus made public the written admission of Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, read into the court record at his trial in Limassol. Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, 24, a Lebanese man with Swedish citizenship detained in Cyprus on July 7, 2012, collected information about tourist sites frequented by Israelis with the objective of carrying out a terrorist attack against them. He was tried on eight counts, among them conspiracy to commit a crime, participation in a criminal organization, intent to commit a crime and obstruction of justice (Cyprus Mail, February 21, 2013).

2. The following information was also made public (New York Times ,[1] Cyprus Mail, February 21, 2013):

1) Activity for Hezbollah – Hossam Taleb Yaacoub has been a member of Hezbollah since 2007. He used the code name "Wael" and was handled by an operative named "Ayman," who wore a mask to the meetings he held with Yaacoub. Yaacoub admitted to having been trained in the use of weapons. He also admitted to delivering packages for Hezbollah in Attalya  (Turkey), Lyon and Amsterdam. He was asked to pick up a couple of bags in Lyon, and to take a cell phone, two SIM cards, and a "mysterious package" to Lebanon.

2) Activity in Cyprus – Yaacoub went to Cyprus for the first time in 2008, and again in December 2011. He claimed that both visits were business-related. On June 26, 2012, he went to Sweden to renew his passport and from there flew via Britain to Cyprus. His Hezbollah handler asked him to conduct surveillance of a number of tourist sites frequented by Israelis. They included a parking lot behind a hospital and the Golden Arches Hotel in Limassol. He was also asked to collect information about various hotels in Ayia Napa (on the southeastern coast of Cyprus) and the price of renting a warehouse. In addition, he was asked to locate Kosher restaurants but was unable to find any.

3) Collecting information in July 2012 – According to the Cypriote authorities, Yaacoub went to the Limassol airport at the beginning of July 2012 and wrote down the license plate number of buses used to carry Israeli tourists. He admitted that all his travel expenses were paid by Hezbollah.

3. Yaacoub's initial admissions indicate that like Bulgaria, locations in Cyprus frequented by Israelis were preferred targets for Hezbollah terrorist attack. The information released in Cyprus, like the information made public by the Bulgarian authorities, revealed the extent and scope of Hezbollah's terrorist activity in European Union countries as well as Hezbollah's determination to continue even after its failures (the terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, was carried out two weeks after an attack in Cyprus was prevented). Nevertheless, the European Union still hesitates to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and impose sanctions on it.

Appendix
Preventing the Terrorist Attack in Cyprus, 2012

1. On July 7, 2012, the Cypriote authorities in Limassol detained a 24-year-old Lebanese man. According to Cypriote police sources, he was there to collect information about Israeli tourists flying to Cyprus. He was carrying both Lebanese and Swedish passports,[2] as well as documents and pictures indicating that he had been following Israeli tourists around the island (Agence France-Presse and AP, July 14, 2012). The information was collected in preparation for carrying out a terrorist attack against Israeli tourists vacationing in Cyprus .

2. The terrorist attack planned for Cyprus was part of the terrorist campaign Iran is waging against Israel. After the detention of the Hezbollah operative in Limassol, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said that Iran was behind the affair. He said that as Iran had sent its operatives to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador on American soil and carry out terrorist attacks in Azerbaijan, Bangkok, Tbilisi, New Delhi and Kenya, it had done the same in Cyprus. He called on the international community to oppose Iran, the largest exporter of terrorism in the world (Website of the Israeli Prime Minister, July 14, 2012).

3. Two weeks after Yaacoub was detained in Cyprus, the attack on the Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, was carried out. A comparison of the information revealed by his admission and the information revealed by the authorities in Bulgaria about the attack in Burgas shows that the attack in Limassol was planned the same way: information was gathered about buses used to transport Israelis and SIM cards were purchased, probably for use in detonating IEDs.[3]

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/world/europe/in-cyprus-trial-man-says-hezbollah-scouted-israeli-targets-in-europe.html?pagewanted=all
[2] It was not the first time a Hezbollah operative used a Swedish passport. The Hezbollah operative involved in the terrorist attack in Thailand had a Swedish passport, as did the operatives who carried out the terrorist attack in Burgas.
[3] For further information about the attack in Burgas, see the February 7, 2013 bulletin “The report issued by Bulgaria about the terrorist attack in Burgas clearly indicates that Hezbollah was involved in its planning and execution.”

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