Israel reportedly fears Iran or a proxy organization may seek to attack Israelis during the Olympic Games, set to begin later this week, The Sunday Times reported.
Israel had already planned for beefed-up security for its delegation at the Games in London, but now harbors concerns that the terrorists responsible for last week’s bombing of an Israeli tourist bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, will strike again, the British paper reported Sunday.
According to The Sunday Times, agents from the Mossad spy agency and Shin Bet security service hastened to Bulgaria in the wake of the bombing to try to identify the bomber and his helpers, in an effort to counter any possible threats on Israel’s delegation to the high-profile event.
A Mossad agent in Bulgaria has reportedly been in close contact with Britain’s security service about possible threats. According to the report, special Mossad agents have been dispatched to capitals around Europe where members of Iran’s Quds Force are known to be working out of embassies.
Though the group responsible for the Bulgaria bombing Wednesday, which left six dead, is still unconfirmed, Israeli officials have pointed to Iran or its proxy Hezbollah as the probable culprits.
Iran is also thought to have been behind a number of foiled attacks on Israeli targets around the world in the last several months, including a car bomb targeting the wife of Israel’s Defense attaché in India in February.
Officials have said terror groups are now looking to hit “soft” Israeli targets outside of Israel, rather than trying to penetrate security measures inside the country.
The Defense Ministry’s director of policy and political-military affairs, Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad (res.), rejected the Times’ description of the efforts in an interview to Army Radio Sunday morning, characterizing them as “literary descriptions taken out of spy novels.”
“Intelligence services simply don’t operate in that way, dispatching dozens of agents to chase down ghosts,” said Gilad. He explained that Israel’s intelligence agencies, in cooperation with their international counterparts, are constantly working to foil terror attacks and that in reality their tasks involved meticulous work conducted by skilled operatives. He urged people to remain calm and keep things in perspective, and said there was no concrete threat of an attack during the Olympics.
Gilad reiterated Israel’s belief that Iran and Hezbollah were behind the Burgas attack, stressing that Israel and its partners had successfully foiled several terror attacks in recent months. “When the terrorists succeed they make bloody headlines. Our successes seldom get reported,” he said.
Tensions between Iran and Israel have ramped up in recent years as Israel has lobbied against Tehran’s nuclear program, threatening military action if needed to stop it. The Islamic Republic has fingered Israel for a number of assassinations of nuclear scientists, a claim Israel denies.
British officials have said security around the high-profile Olympic games will be tight, and Israeli athletes will be under special protection and kept in an area apart from the general athletes’ village.
“We are in a closed-off and sterile section of the Olympic village. Surrounding us is a security network that should be able to thwart any attempted attacks,” said Efraim Zinger, who leads the Israeli delegation to London.
The London Games mark the 40th anniversary of an attack on Israeli athletes in the Munich Olympics that ended with 11 members of the team being killed. In that case, Palestinian terrorists stormed the Israelis’ living quarters, killing two and taking nine hostage. The hostage Israelis were later killed during a botched raid by German soldiers.
Zinger said that the security in London was nothing like that which was in place in the 1972 Munich Games. “Munich was like a summer camp compared to this. It feels like an army base here,” he told Army Radio.