Wednesday 12 December 2018

Netanyahu: Israel 'stopped' plane terror plots in Europe

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Reuters

Raf Sanchez

Israeli intelligence has helped stop terrorists from using civilian aeroplanes in Europe to carry out major attacks "of the worst kind", Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday.

The Israeli prime minister told a group of ambassadors from Nato countries his nation's intelligence agencies had "helped save many European" lives by passing on warnings of jihadist plots.

He did not give details of the thwarted attacks, but said they "involve civil aviation".

"We have, through our intelligence services, provided information that has stopped several dozen major terrorist attacks, many of them in European countries," Mr Netanyahu said. "Some of these could have been mass attacks, of the worst kind that you have experienced on the soil of Europe and even worse, because they involve civil aviation."

Israel has a formidable intelligence apparatus and Mr Netanyahu often uses his country's intelligence-gathering capabilities as a calling card as he tries to improve Israel's diplomatic standing around the world.

He speaks often about how countries that were once hostile to the Jewish state now seek out its help in the fields of both intelligence and technology.

Jihadist groups remain determined to try to smuggle bombs aboard civilian aircraft, according to assessments by both Western and Israeli intelligence agencies.

Perhaps the most dangerous bomb-makers are Al-Qa'ida's Yemeni affiliate, Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap).

The group was behind a failed plot to smuggle bombs into printer cartridges and get them aboard cargo planes in 2010. One bomb was discovered at East Midlands Airport in the UK and another in Dubai.

The plot was foiled after Saudi Arabia intelligence tipped off the US.

Aqap was also behind the failed "underpants bombing", when young Nigerian man Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab nearly blew up a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

Mr Netanyahu said Israel was helping Europe by preventing Isil from setting up "an alternative territorial base" in the Egyptian Sinai desert following its battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria.

The jihadist group has a presence in the Sinai and has carried out deadly attacks against both Egyptian civilians and security forces. Israel has carried out strikes against the group in Sinai and shared intelligence with Egyptian forces as they battle the jihadists.

He told ambassadors that Israel was also working to prevent Iran consolidating its position in Syria. "This is dangerous for you too because the conquest of the Middle East by Iran would eventually affect all of your interests," he said.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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