The Cyprus connection
We don’t normally comment on news out of Cyprus, but something is happening there right now that could have a significant impact on Israel’s security.
The New York Times is following the trial of a Lebanese man accused of recording the arrival times of passenger flights from Israel to the Mediterranean island nation.
According to the Times, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, 24, who also holds a Swedish passport, is a Hezbollah operative. He has already admitted conducting operations for the organization in Cyprus, France and Turkey, some of which involved tracking Israeli tourists, though he claims he never actually took part in any attacks on Israelis.
Why is the trial significant? Because Cyprus is a member of the European Union, and the European Union, unlike the United States, does not recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
But pressure is building on the European Union to rethink its position.
Israeli President Shimon Peres has called upon E.U. leaders to take action.
“The hour has come for every country in the world, and especially the European Union, to add Hezbollah to the list of terror organizations,” Peres said. “It is time to call Hezbollah what it really is: a murderous terror organization.”
The Yaacoub trial comes on the heels of Bulgaria’s announcement that its six-month investigation into the July 2012 bus bombing at its resort city of Bourgas — which killed five Israelis and one Bulgarian and injured 32 others — concluded that Hezbollah was behind the attack.
Bulgaria also is an E.U. state. As is France, where, according to Yaacoub, he conducted activities on behalf of Hezbollah.
In addition, Nigeria’s secret service reported last week it has arrested a “terrorist cell” trained in Iran, which planned to attack U.S. and Israeli targets in the West African nation. The report did not say the cell was linked to Hezbollah, but Iran does back Hezbollah and uses it as one of its proxy armies in the Middle East.
One wonders what the E.U. is waiting for, but we suspect its reluctance to call Hezbollah what it is stems from fear of a violent backlash from the large, and growing, Muslim population in Europe. That population, according to the Pew Forum, stood at 44 million in 2010.
Even if the European Union fails to act, Yaacoub’s arrest, detention and trial already represent a blow to Hezbollah. Western authorities are learning a lot about the organization’s covert activities and capabilities.
But it’s not enough. Hezbollah, like Hamas, are clearly engaged in international terrorism. They are targeting innocent civilians for death. The European Union should pay careful attention to Hezbollah’s Cyprus connection and act for the good of its own citizens as well as the Israelis who travel there. As Peres said, Hezbollah should be a pariah in “every country in the world.”