The battle that was forced on the IDF in the northern arena on Saturday, February 10, 2018, ended with a knockout of the Syrian-Iranian setup deployed in the Golan Heights by the Israeli intelligence and air force. The realization by Iran and Syria that it would be difficult for them to act freely on the Israeli border from now on necessarily leads to the assessment that they will try to retaliate against Israel in other arenas. Therefore, it is required to prepare for the continuation of the conflict elsewhere and to be alert on all fronts.
Experience shows that the law of communicating vessels usually comes into play when it comes to confrontations with Iran or its proxies in a particular arena on the one hand, and terrorist threats against Israeli targets in Israel and abroad on the other. The more Israel gains the upper hand in the conflict, the higher the Iranian effort to look for an Israeli "soft belly" in other arenas. Therefore, the escalation on the northern front and the direct fighting with Iranian (for the first time) and Syrian forces, necessitates increasing the alertness of Israeli bodies around the world to prevent and foil terrorist attacks.
The confrontation with the Iranian proxies has been going on for years in various arenas along Israel's borders: in the south with Hamas, and especially in the north with Hezbollah. At the same time, Iranian intelligence agencies are busy gathering pre-attack intelligence, while planning and carrying out attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets abroad. This has been evident in recent years when Israeli diplomats and tourists were targeted in Georgia, Bulgaria, and India, or when attempted attacks were foiled around the world (i.e., Thailand, two years ago).
In a few weeks, we will mark 26 years since the car bomb attack that led to the collapse of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, resulting in the death of 29 people, including four Israeli officials, and the injury of more than 220 people. It was undoubtedly clear that the intelligence community had long known that Iranian intelligence was behind that deadly attack. Two years later, on July 18, 1994, the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires – "Beit Amiya" – exploded. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was vengeance for an Israeli air force attack on its training base in Ein Dardara, in which 50 of the organization's terrorists were liquidated. The Iranian fingerprint is also evident in this case.
Syria, even in the days of Hafez al-Assad, was also exposed for involvement in terror attacks against Israeli targets abroad, the most prominent of which was the attempt to blow up an El Al plane on its flight from London to Tel Aviv on April 17, 1986. A fooled Irish passenger operated by a Syrian agent (the father of her unborn child) tried to board the El Al flight with a double-bottomed suitcase. Only the professionalism and alertness of the security officer and the El Al security team prevented the loss of the plane and the certain death of the 375 passengers and crew. The investigation of the British and Israeli intelligence services revealed that Syria and its intelligence services were directly connected to the attempted attack. It was also revealed that the explosive device itself was assembled at the Syrian embassy in London.
Regardless of the targeted intelligence needed to direct the security deployment in preparation for a possible attack, any assessment of future attacks by Hezbollah or Iran – or even Syria – against Israeli targets abroad must consider a wide range of possible methods of action. Mobile platforms such as car bombs and drones are the most prevalent means of attack by terrorist organizations worldwide, given their many inherent advantages. The weaponizing of regular vehicles allows terrorists to achieve significant physical and media effects. Armed drones, on the other hand, are not yet widely used, but they are taking up more and more space in the arsenal of terrorist organizations, which are using them to achieve rather impressive results, especially in Iraq and Syria.
Hezbollah and Hamas, with Iranian support, have already launched airborne platforms (i.e., drones) into Israel, which were intercepted by the Israeli Air Force or other IDF forces. The most recent incident took place last Saturday with the infiltration of the advanced Iranian UAV, which was intercepted by an IAF Apache helicopter.
The security forces facing these threats require special security deployment that includes various components of doctrine, procedures and technological means.
In the absence of targeted intelligence (and even if such intel exists), a comprehensive deployment is required to prevent and thwart attacks of various types and against various targets: individuals, facilities, and infrastructures, including in cyberspace (although, in this particular case the Iranians will presumably choose a physical target). Security and defense organizations must be proactive to prevent future damage. In other words, the thwarting efforts on the tactical level are imperative not only to save lives but also to enable a strategic breathing space and prevent the escalation of the conflict.
Meir Gershuni, formerly a senior member of the Israel Security Agency, is currently the owner of a security consulting company.