Israel’s Mossad spy agency was responsible for providing British authorities with information that helped foil Hezbollah’s efforts to stockpile explosives in London in 2015, a senior Israeli official told the Kan public broadcaster Monday.
The report said Hezbollah later attempted to move its operations to other countries, which were also notified by Mossad, and that the two organizations were for some time engaged in a game of cat and mouse, as the Iran-backed group sought to realize its plans.
According to a report Sunday by The Daily Telegraph, the Hezbollah plot was part of a wider plan to lay the groundwork for future attacks. It noted foiled Hezbollah operations in Thailand, Cyprus, and New York. All those plots were believed to have targeted Israeli interests around the world.
The report said that, acting on a tip from an unnamed foreign intelligence agency, MI5 and the Metropolitan Police raided four properties in North West London, discovering thousands of disposable ice packs containing three tons of ammonium nitrate, a common ingredient in homemade bombs.
The report said the raid came just months after the UK joined the US and other world powers in signing the Iran nuclear deal, and speculated that it was hushed up to avoid derailing the agreement with Tehran, which is the main patron of Hezbollah.
A man in his 40s was arrested on suspicion of plotting terrorism, but was eventually released without charges, the report said. The paper quoted “well placed sources” as saying that “the plot had been disrupted by a covert intelligence operation rather than seeking a prosecution.”
The Telegraph said the Cyprus case was strikingly similar to the one in London. In 2015, in Cyprus, confessed Hezbollah agent Hussein Bassam Abdallah was sentenced to six years in jail, after he was found with 8.2 tons of ammonium nitrate in his home. He had reportedly planned to attack Israeli targets.
The Telegraph said its information came after a three-month investigation in which more than 30 current and former officials in Britain, America and Cyprus were approached and court documents were obtained.
The Telegraph said that in Cyprus the ammonium nitrate was also stored in ice packs, stating that they were a convenient, seemingly innocuous and easy method of transport.
Sources told the Telegraph that the UK plot was at a very early stage and no targets had been selected. It said UK intelligence used the opportunity to try and establish what Hezbollah was up to, and so did not disrupt it immediately.
“MI5 worked independently and closely with international partners to disrupt the threat of malign intent from Iran and its proxies in the UK,” a UK intelligence source told the paper.
“The Security Service and police work tirelessly to keep the public safe from a host of national security threats. Necessarily, their efforts and success will often go unseen,” said Minister of State for Security Ben Wallace.
But the Telegraph speculated that the incident was kept quiet because the US had just signed the Iran nuclear deal.
“It raises questions about whether senior UK government figures chose not to reveal the plot in part because they were invested in keeping the Iran nuclear deal afloat,” the paper said.
The US, under President Donald Trump, has since pulled out of the deal and hit Iran with fresh sanctions.
The paper also raised questions as to why the information was not revealed as the UK debated banning the entire Hezbollah organization earlier this year. In March, it finally declared Hezbollah’s political wing illegal after years of distinguishing it from its military wing.