JERUSALEM — Israel is on alert for plots to kill more Israelis overseas, after speculation that last week’s deadly bombing of an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria was a rehearsal for a spectacular attack on Israel’s Olympics team, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhahu said Sunday.
Israel blames Iran and its Lebanese Hezbollah proxies for last week’s bombing at an airport in the Bulgarian resort town of Burgas, just a little over a week before the opening of the London Games. Five Israelis, a bus driver and the bomber were killed.
While Israeli officials are tight-lipped about security procedures for its athletes, they are on high alert on the 40th anniversary of a Palestinian attack at the 1972 Olympics in Munich that killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.
“We are vigilant about the possibility that they [Iran and its agents] would attack elsewhere, but I can’t give specific details,” Mr. Netanyahu told CBS television’s “Face the Nation” program on Sunday.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told reporters in Israel that intelligence agencies around the world were working with the British “to minimize the chances that there will be any sort of incident during the Olympics.”
“[This vigilance] is first and primarily an outgrowth of things that happened in the past, things that we all remember at the Munich Olympics,” Mr. Barak said Sunday. “We must remain alert.”
Defense Ministry policy planner Amos Gilad dismissed a report in London’s Sunday Times that Israel rushed spies to European capitals after the Bulgaria attack to look for an Iranian terror squad dispatched to kill Israeli athletes.
“Intelligence doesn’t work that way. You don’t send dozens of agents to look for ghosts,” Mr. Gilad told Army Radio.
A British security official said the threat level to Israeli athletes and officials had been high even before the Bulgaria attack. He said security arrangements were assessed again following the attack, but he would not say whether they had been changed. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
Israeli counterterrorism expert Boaz Ganor said the Olympics remains one of the most attractive targets for terrorists because of its high profile. Potential Israeli targets include not just athletes, but Israeli tourists and fans as well, he said.
“There are more groups that want to harm Israeli targets than others,” he said.
Tens of thousands of police officers and security staff will be on hand to guard the games, including thousands of troops on standby. A no-fly zone will also be established over Olympic venues from July 14 to August 15.
Protecting Israeli athletes at the Olympics has been a particular concern since Palestinian gunmen took 11 Israeli athletes and coaches hostage at the Munich games and later killed them. The Israeli team will be kept away from the others in a secluded, heavily secured area, a senior Israeli intelligence official told the Associated Press.