TerrorismInformation from Israel helped thwart ISIS plot to blow up civilian airliner in Australia

Published 22 February 2018

Information from Israeli military intelligence helped prevent the downing of an Australian passenger jet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said. An Australian government minister confirmed that Israeli information helped in finding the attack suspects. Two Lebanese brothers living in Australia tried to smuggle a powerful bomb, concealed inside a meat grinder, onto an Etihad jet scheduled to fly from Sydney to Abu Dhabi.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a Wednesday speech to U.S. Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, said Israel’s military intelligence had prevented the bombing of an “Australian airliner.”

“The Israeli intelligence services thwarted the downing of an Australian plane, an unimaginable slaughter,” Netanyahu told delegates.

“This would have caused major disruption in global air transport, and this is only one of dozens of terrorist attacks we have foiled around the world,” Netanyahu said, offering no details.

ABC News reports that his comments followed a statement from the Israeli army that Unit 8200, the Israeli military sigint unit, had foiled an “air attack abroad” by the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group.

Israeli media said the army statement referred to an attempted bombing in July of an Etihad Airways flight, which had been due to leave Sydney for Abu Dhabi.

Information provided by Unit 8200 led to the arrest of two IS militants who were working “toward the execution of the attack,” the army said.

Australian Federal Police have said, however, that they received the foreign intelligence tip-off on 26 July — eleven days after the arrest of the two militants as they attempted to board the plane.

The police said that in raids on several Sydney properties, conducted on 15 July, two Lebanese-Australian brothers, Khaled Khayat and Mahmoud Khayat, were arrested and charged with plotting to bring down the passenger jet by trying to smuggle an improvised explosive device in their luggage.

Their attempt was blocked before they reached security because the device was too heavy to pass check-in.

There were reports that one of the two men who were arrested had asked his brother to carry the luggage on board without telling him that there were explosives in it.

The apparent discrepancy between Netanyahu’s statement and the police timetable notwithstanding, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton praised the cooperation between Australian and Israeli agencies.

“This Etihad flight was almost blown out of the sky and it would have resulted in hundreds of people losing their lives,” he told a local radio station in Sydney. “We are grateful for the assistance that Israel provided in that matter and we still have a very close relationship with them and many other partners.”

The homemade bomb, disguised as a meat-mincer, was built at the direction of a senior IS commander based overseas, Australian police said.