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How the Mossad Helped Stop an Iranian-Hezbollah Attempt to Kill Jews

Iranian military ship Iris Dena is pictured berthed in Rio de Janeiro’s port, Brazil, February 28, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

New details emerged about Operation Trapiche (“warehouse” in English), which resulted in the arrest of two men in Brazil with suspected links to the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. The men were reportedly plotting to launch a series of major terror attacks against multiple Jewish and Israeli targets throughout Brazil.

It was the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, that had conducted surveillance of some of the key masterminds behind the Hezbollah plot. Though not known for speaking publicly, the Mossad issued a rare public statement on Thursday, November 8, thanking “the Brazilian security services for the arrest of a terrorist cell that was operated by Hezbollah in order to carry out an attack on Israeli and Jewish targets in Brazil.”

The Mossad duly noted that the series of attacks was “planned by the Hezbollah terrorist organization, directed and financed by the Iranian regime.”

Authorities revealed that one of the men was already in custody facing money laundering and smuggling charges in the country. But the new arrests were made in Sao Paulo state, with one suspect being apprehended at a bakery outside the city, while the other at Guarulhos International Airport upon his arrival from Lebanon. He was found to be carrying $5,000.

Investigations revealed that the two men had recently traveled to Beirut to meet with Hezbollah representatives and had negotiated prices for collaboration in terrorist attacks, created a list of addresses to be targeted, and were in the process of recruiting Brazilian operatives.

The Brazilian federal police said in a statement that “the operation aimed to prevent acts of terrorism and gather evidence of possible recruitment of Brazilians for extremist activities within the country.”

The group was allegedly planning attacks on several Jewish community buildings, including synagogues and the Israeli embassy in Brasilia. The Federal Police searched 11 locations in Minas Gerais, the Federal District, and São Paulo states. Interpol has also issued arrest warrants for two Brazilians believed to be in Lebanon, where Hezbollah operates.

According to Leonardo Coutinho, a Brazilian investigative writer and analyst with the private Washington-based firm Inbrain Consultants, “Hezbollah is using the same strategy that led to the attacks in Buenos Aires, Argentina, against the Israeli embassy in 1992 and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in 1994. At that time, Hezbollah exploited the country as a base for its logistical and financial operations.”

US agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also took part in the investigation. On October 11, the Commander of US Southern Command, Laura Richardson, warned about the potential for Hezbollah and Iran to carry out terrorist attacks in Latin America.

There has been no official statement from the Brazilian government regarding the recent police operation. Justice Minister Flavio Dino referred to the investigation as “a hypothesis,” without directly naming Hezbollah. “Look, this is a hypothesis. The Federal Police are investigating and showing that, in this case, we only have one side, it’s the side of the law, of the international commitments that Brazil has made,” the minister said.

The news of the operation came at a very inconvenient time for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Although Brazil has always been neutral in international conflicts, since the Ukrainian-Russian war, Lula has taken a more active role. After the October 7 Hamas attack against Israel, the Brazilian president said that “Hamas attacks do not justify the deaths of millions of innocents.” Lula’s political party, Brazil’s Worker’s Party, accused Israel of carrying out a “genocide” against the Palestinians.

Lula called Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi — with whom Lula allied himself upon taking office — in mid-October “to discuss the release of hostages in Gaza.”

Brazil has chosen not to designate Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations. This decision, coupled with the presence of over 30,000 Lebanese nationals in the Triple Frontier region on the border of Paraguay and Argentina, has created an environment that has facilitated Hezbollah’s growth in the country.

“Operation Trapiche confirms what was already known. Since its inception, Hezbollah has taken advantage of the Lebanese diaspora in Brazil to radicalize, find funding, including through drug trafficking, and to hide,” said Coutinho.

Hezbollah’s illicit activities in Brazil came to light in 2018 with the arrest of Lebanese businessman Assad Ahmad Barakat, identified as the group’s financial operator. He was arrested for ideological falsehood in Foz do Iguaçu, and later extradited to Paraguay. Before being arrested, he was the target of US sanctions in 2004. The document released by the US Treasury Department at the time accused Barakat of maintaining “close ties with the leadership of Hezbollah.”

In June, an Argentinian judge sent arrest warrants to Interpol, for four Lebanese men who were allegedly involved in the AMIA attack. Among them, Farouk Abdul Hay Omairi is reported to be living freely in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. In 2006 the Brazilian Federal Police arrested him for leading a drug trafficking network that operated between Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. The US Treasury Department sanctioned him in 2006 for his ties to Hezbollah. Meanwhile, the companies owned by another Lebanese individual on the Argentinian list, Salman Raouf Salman, are still operating in Brazil.

Furthermore, Garip Uç was recently arrested at a drug laboratory in the coastal region of São Paulo. His brother, Eray, is still at large and has been linked to a potent drug trafficking network of Lebanese origin based in Paraguay and led by Hezbollah’s financier, Ali Issa Chamas. Chamas is serving a sentence for international drug trafficking in Paraguay.

This network poses a threat, and its wrath could sow terror among Israeli and Jewish communities in Latin America.

Maria Zuppello is an Italian analyst based in Brazil and an expert on the crime-terror nexus. In her book, Tropical Jihad, she explores the connections between Hezbollah, Latin American cartels, and the Italian ‘Ndrangheta mafia. Maria tweets at @mzuppy A version of this article was originally published by The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

The post How the Mossad Helped Stop an Iranian-Hezbollah Attempt to Kill Jews first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Biden Administration Urges Israel to Tone Down Response to Hezbollah Aggression in Bid to Avert Wider Conflict

Mourners carry a coffin during the funeral of Wissam Tawil, a commander of Hezbollah’s elite Radwan forces who according to Lebanese security sources was killed during an Israeli strike on south Lebanon, in Khirbet Selm, Lebanon, Jan. 9, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Aziz Taher

The Biden administration has been pushing the Israeli government to de-escalate hostilities with Hezbollah to prevent a full-scale war from breaking out along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where the powerful Iran-backed terrorist group wields significant political and military influence.

In Israel’s north, Hezbollah terrorists have been firing rockets at Israel daily from southern Lebanon since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre, leading Israeli forces to strike back. Tensions have been escalating between both sides, fueling concerns that the conflict in Gaza — the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas, another Iran-backed Islamist terrorist group, to Israel’s south — could escalate into a regional conflict.

More than 80,000 Israelis evacuated Israel’s north in October and have since been unable to return to their homes. The majority of those spent the past eight months residing in hotels in safer areas of the country. The mass displacement has ramped up pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to find a swift resolution to the situation.

The ongoing conflict between both sides escalated on Tuesday when senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah was killed in an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah responded by launching over 200 missiles into northern Israel. 

During Abdullah’s funeral, senior Hezbollah official Hachem Saffieddine vowed that the terrorist group would intensify its strikes on Israel. 

“Our response after the martyrdom of Abu Taleb will be to intensify our operations in severity, strength, quantity and quality,” Saffieddine said. “Let the enemy wait for us in the battlefield.”

In Israel, meanwhile, officials have said they prefer a diplomatic solution to the current crisis but are prepared to escalate military action to push Hezbollah back from the border in order to allow internally displaced Israelis to return home. Polling has shown that the majority of the Israeli public wants the military to engage in expanded actions against the Lebanese terrorist group, which is committed to Israel’s destruction.

The Biden administration has been advising Netanyahu against pursuing the idea of a “limited war” against Hezbollah, arguing that it could spark a regional war throughout the Middle East. According to multiple reports, US officials have warned Israel that Iran could dispatch militants from Syria, Iraq, and Yemen into Lebanon to bolster Hezbollah’s effort.

The White House has also expressed concern  that Israeli officials do not have a clear strategy on how to keep the war contained to solely Lebanon. Fear of a broader regional war has intensified the Biden administration’s urgency to finalize a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas, which launched the ongoing war in Gaza by slaughtering over 1,200 people throughout southern Israel and kidnapping more than 250 others on Oct. 7.

“We are concerned about an increase in activity in the north. We don’t want this to escalate to a broad regional conflict and we urge de-escalation,” a Pentagon spokesperson told reporters this week.

The Pentagon also released a statement saying that Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and his US counterpart Lloyd Austin discussed efforts to “de-escalate tensions along the Israel-Lebanon border in the wake of Lebanese Hezbollah’s increased aggression.”

According to multiple reports, Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to US President Joe Biden for energy and investment, will head to Israel on Monday in an effort to temper tensions between the Jewish state and Hezbollah. Hochstein will meet with Netanyahu and Gallant with the goal of swaying them against green-lighting a “limited ground invasion” in Lebanon. Hochstein will reportedly also journey to Beirut to conduct discussions with Lebanese officials.

“There was a lot of work, diplomatic work done behind the scenes by several folks in the US administration, working with regional powers and our allies to try and tamp this down,” Hochstein has said regarding the prospect of a regional war erupting in the Middle East.

Hochstein argued that preventing a large-scale war between Israel and Lebanon requires “active engagement” with both parties and for the public of both countries to “understand the risks” of further escalation. He added that “despite the bravado talk” coming from government officials, Lebanese people do not to go to war with Israel.

“The bottom line is a lot of civilians will die,” Hochstein said.

Despite chest-thumping by Hezbollah leaders, experts believe that the elimination of Abdullah might cause Hezbollah to exercise caution in engaging further with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). 

The powerful elimination worries Hezbollah members. They now understand that the IDF knows much more about them than we do,” Professor Amatzia Baram told The Jerusalem Post. “Additionally, the operation indicates that Hezbollah’s field security is not airtight and that the organization’s intelligence system has been penetrated to such an extent that we were able to eliminate such an important sector commander. The IDF managed to infiltrate their networks and systems and identify the right people for elimination.”

The post Biden Administration Urges Israel to Tone Down Response to Hezbollah Aggression in Bid to Avert Wider Conflict first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Iranian Court Sentences Woman to 18 Years in Prison for Supporting Israel

Iranian protesters carry a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a Yemeni flag as they burn an Israeli flag during an anti-US and anti-British protest in front of the British embassy in downtown Tehran, Iran, Jan. 12, 2024. Photo: Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Reuters Connect

Fatemeh Sepehri, a prominent Iranian dissident and political prisoner, has been sentenced to an additional 18 and a half years in prison after she publicly expressed support for Israel.

The harsh prison sentence appeared to be at least partly in response to a video clip released on Oct. 16 from Ghaem Hospital in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad in which Sepehri, who suffers from a heart ailment, condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. Hamas is backed by the Iranian regime, which provides the Palestinian terror group in Gaza with funding, weapons, and training.

“I emphatically declare that the Iranian nation stands in solidarity with the people of Israel,” she said. “I hope [Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks] closes the Islamic Republic’s chapter in history.”

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For 45 years, Iranian women have tirelessly battled for their rights, freedom, and advancement. Among them, Fatemeh Sepehri has boldly challenged the ideals of the Islamic Republic. NUFDI proudly awards her the 2024 Humanitarian Award.
pic.twitter.com/ccSnhXVQ9e

— سه خط طلا (@misanthropgirl) March 19, 2024

Although Fatimeh’s court records are unavailable to the public, her brother Asghar Sepehri tweeted details about the sentence. According to her sibling, Fatimeh was sentenced earlier this month by a judge of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Mashhad to seven years for supporting Israel, another seven years for conspiring against internal security, three years for insulting Iran’s so-called “supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and one year and six months for propaganda against the Islamist regime.

Iran’s rulers regularly call for the destruction of Israel, often referring to the Jewish state as a “cancerous tumor” or “the Zionist entity.”

Sepehri was originally arrested in Sept. 2022 following the killing of Mahsa Amini, a young woman whose death at the hands of Iran’s morality police sparked nationwide protests against the ruling Islamist regime on an unprecedented scale.

Sepehri’s pro-Israel video was posted after she was temporary released from prison to undergo open-heart surgery. According to her family, Sepehri has been subjected to intense “psychological torture” while in prison. Her brothers, Mohammad-Hossein and Hossein, have also received severe sentences for similar charges: eight years and two years and 11 months, respectively.

In the past, Sepehri has been an outspoken critic of Khamenei and the Islamic Republic more broadly. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported in 2021 that Sepehri said on video that she hoped to see the day when Khamenei would be dragged through the streets and killed like Libya’s late ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Days after Sepehri received her sentence, Iran released political prisoner Louis Arnaud, a French citizen, on Thursday. Arnaud was arrested in Sept. 2022 as anti-government protests were erupting across Iran. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted shortly after Arnaud’s release, “Louis Arnaud is free. Tomorrow he will be in France after a long incarceration in Iran.”

Louis Arnaut is greeted by Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné at Paris’ Le Bourget Airport following his release from Iran. Photo: Screenshot

Three French nationals remain imprisoned in Iran as political prisoners. French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné posted on social media that securing their release remains a top priority.

The post Iranian Court Sentences Woman to 18 Years in Prison for Supporting Israel first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Former ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Star Patricia Heaton: Every Human Being Should Be Against Antisemitism

One of the billboards erected in partnership between JewBelong and O7C. Photo: Instagram

Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton said this week that following the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, it should be a “natural” reaction among all humans to want to combat antisemitism, as well as support the Jewish people and Israel’s right to exist.

The “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Middle” star, who is a devout Catholic, made the comments during her guest appearance on the NewsNation show “CUOMO,” where she also advocated for Christians to voice solidarity with Jews and Israel after Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 people and took 250 hostages during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Heaton began by telling host Chris Cuomo that after the Oct. 7 atrocities, she was “confused by the lack of outcry from the churches.”

“I even posted on Instagram, ‘Did you ever have that thought that if you were in Germany during World War II, you hoped that you would be that good German that helped to hide your Jewish neighbors? Well, today you have that opportunity,’” she added.

Following the Oct. 7 attacks, Heaton founded a nonprofit called the Oct. 7 Coalition (O7C) to urge Christians to be visibly outspoken against antisemitism, and in support of Jews and Israel’s right to exist. Heaton’s O7C has since teamed up with the nonprofit JewBelong to launch a nationwide billboard campaign to raise awareness about antisemitism in the US.

Talking about why she wanted to get involved in rallying support for Israel and Jewish communities facing a rise in antisemitism in the US since the Oct. 7 attacks, Heaton said, “I think if you’re a human being, that should be your natural response to what we saw.” When asked about how people in the entertainment industry have reacted to her avid pro-Israel stance, she said Jewish friends in the business have called her “brave and courageous.”

“[But] I just think this is just a normal human reaction,” she said. “I have heard ‘We have projects we have to promote. We don’t want to bring politics into it.’ I guess if someone spent 50 or 100 million on a movie, they don’t want to introduce this subject matter and I guess you can understand that. But generally speaking I think Hollywood could do more to support our Jewish community.”

The post Former ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Star Patricia Heaton: Every Human Being Should Be Against Antisemitism first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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