2012 Cyprus terrorist plot
On July 7, 2012, local authorities arrested Lebanese-born Swedish citizen Hossam Yaakoub in Limassol, Cyprus. Yaakoub admitted to being a member of the Shi'a Islamic militant group Hezbollah, who had been tasked with surveilling the activities of Israeli tourists on the island. Israel condemned the incident as an attempted terrorist attack.
In the months preceding the disruption of the terrorist plot in Cyprus, Hezbollah and Iran were implicated in terrorist attacks and plots against Israeli targets in Thailand, India, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Kenya. On July 18, eleven days after Yaakoub was arrested, five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian citizen were killed in a suicide bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria. The Bulgarian government implicated Hezbollah in the attack.
On July 7, 2012, Cypriot authorities arrested Hossam Yaakoub, a Lebanese-born Swedish citizen, in the port city of Limassol. After intensive questioning, Yaakoub admitted that he was a member of Hezbollah.
Yaakoub had arrived in Cyrpus as a tourist on July 5. Prior to his arrest, he was tracking the movement of Israeli tourists on the island. On July 6, he surveilled the arrival of Israeli tourists on an Arkia Airlines flight from Tel Aviv to Larnaca International Airport. Hezbollah had tasked Yaakoub with monitoring charter flights from Israel to Cyprus since late 2011. He recorded flight information and wrote down the registration numbers of shuttle buses the passengers boarded. In between flights, he surveiled the resort hotels which Israelis frequented. His surveillance data noted the security presence at the hotels and their proximity to local emergency services. He also photographed hotel entrances and parking lots. In a sworn deposition, Yaakoub told police, "I was just collecting information about the Jews. This is what my organization is doing, everywhere in the world."
Information provided by Israeli intelligence to Cyprus that Yaakoub intended to carry out attacks led to his arrest. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the incident as an "attempted terrorist attack by Hezbollah against an Israeli target... conducted under Iran's auspices."
On March 21, 2013, a three-judge panel in Cyprus convicted Yaakoub on five of eight charges, "including participation in a criminal organization, planning to commit a crime and money laundering." On March 28, the court sentenced Yaakoub to four years in prison. During the sentencing, the judges stated, "There is no doubt these are serious crimes which could have potentially endangered Israeli citizens and targets in the republic."
The conviction of Yaakoub, in tandem with the Bulgarian government's declaration that Hezbollah was behind the July 2012 Burgas bus bombing, has increased the pressure on the European Union to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the conviction of the Hezbollah operative in Cyprus "underscores the need for our European allies — and other governments around the world — to crack down on this deadly group."
- "As Cyprus bombing attempt shows, war with Iran can start anywhere". Haaretz. 16 July 2012.
- "Elaborate surveillance operation raises concerns about broader Hezbollah attacks". The Washington Post. 26 February 2013.
- "Man detained in Cyprus was planning attack on Israeli targets for Hezbollah". Haaretz. 14 July 2012.
- "Israel PM accuses Hezbollah of Cyprus attack plot". Reuters. 15 July 2012.
- "Cyprus convicts Hezbollah operative". The Washington Post. 21 March 2013.
- "Cyprus jails Hezbollah man for plot to kill Israelis". The Jerusalem Post. 28 March 2013.