Extra security thrown around Israeli agencies


WASHINGTON -- Hours after two bombings in London, U.S. and European intelligence agencies issued new warnings about possible further attacks against Israeli targets, leading to tightened security at hundreds of Israeli facilities and Jewish religious and cultural centers around the world.

In response to threats picked up by the FBI, the Israeli Embassy in Washington was effectively cordoned off yesterday, while concrete barriers were erected around Israel's Consulate and U.N. mission in New York. In London, more than 100 Jewish and Israeli sites were placed under 24-hour police protection.

An anti-terrorism team in Los Angeles stepped up security at several locales after a police bomb squad was called in to search a car in a parking structure next to the Israeli Consulate last night. No explosives were found, authorities said.

Israeli offices in Asia and Africa were also put under new alert.

Forensic results are far from complete at any of four sites bombed over the past week in London, Argentina and Panama, but both U.S. counterterrorism officials and private experts are tentatively concluding that Islamic extremists linked to Lebanon's Hezbollah, or Party of God, are responsible for at least three and probably all four attacks.

Hezbollah has denied involvement.

The two London attacks "are consistent with the pattern we've seen in the past," State Department spokesman Mike McCurry said yesterday. "And that points toward involvement by radical factions including Hezbollah, with sponsorship and support by Iran."

A senior U.S. official went further, tying together all four. "These are parts of the same whole, whether or not they know about each other. Like spokes on an axle, they are probably cells linking back to one unit. The wave of attacks is not a coincidence," he said.

Western experts believe that the motive for the attacks, the most deadly in years with more than 100 dead, was to retaliate for Israeli raids on Hezbollah bases in Lebanon and to undermine progress toward Middle East peace.

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