JERUSALEM – Israel, fearing that Hizbullah sleeper agents are seeking to attack Israeli targets overseas, has raised the level of alert for its embassies and consulates worldwide, including in the U.S.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced on Tuesday that Israel had agreed to permit relief flights into Beirut International Airport. But Rice, on a quick trip to the region during which she met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian officials, refused to offer any indication that Israel’s military operations in Lebanon and Gaza would any time soon.
The information concerning possible terrorist strikes in the U.S. and other countries came after FBI officials told reporters last week they were searching for possible Hizbullah agents operating inside the U.S.
Abu Nasser, second-in-command of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades terrorist group, warned last week that it is only a “question of time” before Palestinian terror groups and other Islamic organizations in the Middle East target the U.S. both abroad and on the home front.
According to Israeli security officials, Abu Nasser and the overall leader of the Al Aksa Brigades in northern Samaria, Ala Senakreh, coordinate their group’s activities directly with Hizbullah. Sources in the Brigades admitted to WorldNetDaily that they work in tandem with Hizbullah, which they say provides funding and training.
The Al Aksa Brigades, the declared “military wing” of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, is responsible for scores of rocket and shooting attacks, and – together with Islamic Jihad – for every suicide bombing since last February’s cease-fire.
“One can say that these threats are just rhetoric, but the near past proved that these threats come more and more into reality,” said Abu Nasser. “Believe me, it is a new era and I am suggesting to the American people to adopt a different policy and strategy because very soon they will deal with a unified Muslim world, but without the help of their agents in the Middle East.”
The Al Aksa Brigades is not thought to possess the ability to attack inside the U.S., but there are concerns its ally, Hizbullah, has infiltrated and is seeking to attack. Hizbullah representatives in Iran warned last week the group stood ready to target U.S. and Israeli interests worldwide.
American law enforcement officials said they are taking the Hizbullah threats seriously.
“Because of the heightened difficulties surrounding U.S.-Iranian relations, the FBI has increased its focus on Hizbullah,” said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson in Washington. “Those investigations relate particularly to the potential presence of Hizbullah members on U.S. soil.”
William Kowalski, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI in Detroit, asked, “If the situation escalates, will Hizbullah take the gloves off, so to speak, and attack here in the United States, which they’ve been reluctant to do until now?”
Detroit is home to oneof the largest Muslim communities in the United States. Hizbullah sympathizers have been caught fund-raising in the city. Two men pled guilty earlier this month to racketeering charges in which a smuggling ring based in Michigan is accused of funneling profits to Hizbullah.
U.S. law enforcement agencies reportedly have indications Hizbullah agents are on U.S. soil and may be planning attacks. In May, the New York Post cited law-enforcement and intelligence officials who stated that Hizbullah may be planning to activate sleeper cells in New York and other big cities as the U.S. confrontation with Iran escalates.
The sources told the Post that about a dozen hard-core supporters of Hizbullah are operating in the New York area. They said the possible Hizbullah agents had been placed under heavy surveillance. Hizbullah has never launched a strike on U.S. soil, but prior to al Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it was responsible for more American deaths than any other terrorist group.
Hizbullah is accused of attacking the U.S. embassy in Lebanon, killing 63, and of a spate of kidnappings and murders of Americans in Lebanon. Hizbullah’s deadliest attack against Americans was the 1983 bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. servicemen.
Hizbullah is also is suspected of striking Jewish targets abroad, including the truck bombing in 1992 of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in which 29 people were killed, and a bombing two years later of an Israeli-owned building in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 85 civilians.