Israel vows to 'capture and punish' bombers: Fears of a new cycle of violence mount as Israeli embassies go on to 'highest alert' and Tehran predicts more explosions across Europe

WARNINGS were issued yesterday of a new cycle of violence and retaliation, as Israel said it would hunt down those who bombed Jewish and Israeli targets in Buenos Aires and London, and Iran said more explosions could be expected across Europe.

Germany, Britain and the United States have announced stringent measures to protect Jewish and Israeli premises. Israeli embassies and consulates throughout the world are on 'highest alert' for fresh attacks.

In Jerusalem, the Israeli cabinet issued a statement which read: 'The government condemns the bloodshed against innocent civilians, and declares it will act . . . to capture the criminals and punish them.'

Israel has accused Iran of sponsoring Islamic groups including the Lebanese Hizbollah and the Palestinian groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which it says were behind the bombings.

Israel's statement is the bluntest warning yet that it will hunt down the bombers. History shows it has the means to carry this out. From the early days of the state, Israel has shown no mercy to those who have taken up arms against it. In the shadow war between Palestinian extremists and Israeli agents in the early Seventies, many Palestinians were killed in the streets of Europe.

In one of the most daring operations, in April 1973, a commando team guided by Mossad agents landed in Beirut and killed three top PLO agents. Fifteen years later, a similar operation killed the PLO's military commander, Abu Jihad, in Tunis.

Israeli options now include launching another blistering attack by air, land and sea on Shia extremist bases in Lebanon, sending in hit-squads to Beirut to target Hizbollah leaders, or even killing Iranian diplomats or others who are suspected of providing logistical support in Europe and worldwide.

Many European governments, however sympathetic they might be to Israel at this time, are unwilling to see their capitals turned into arenas for the bloody settling of Middle Eastern scores. The Israelis have overstepped the mark before. In 1973 they killed a Moroccan waiter in the Norwegian resort of Lillehammer in mistake for Ali Hassan Salameh, perpetrator of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games massacres.

In 1987, British police investigating the murder of Naji Ali, a prominent Palestinian cartoonist, arrested another Palestinian in Hull, Ismail Sowan. In his possession they found an arms cache which included four assault rifles, hand grenades, 145kg of Semtex explosives, timers and detonators. Sowan, it emerged, had been working for Mossad.

The Thatcher government was livid, because the Israelis had been conducting intelligence operations in Britain without informing the British authorities.

For more than a year co-operation between the British and Israeli intelligence agencies was suspended.

For their part, the Iranians have stepped up security to protect Iranian institutions and personalities inside and outside the country. There are reports that key figures in the regime are expecting an Israeli attack at any time.

Iran has accused Israel of being behind the bombings as a pretext to discredit revolutionary Islamic movements. Iran's state-run radio said yesterday the wave of bombings against Jewish and Israeli targets was likely to spread to other European capitals.

'They will probably extend them to other European capitals so that they can get maximum benefit from these explosions against Islam, the Islamic movements and the Islamic Republic of Iran,' the radio added.

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