T.O. open to attack: Report
Hezbollah has moved in, former CSIS expert says, amid Israeli reports they are tracking El Al Airlines staff
By BEN SPENCER
September 5, 2008
A former Canadian Security Intelligence Service official says Toronto could soon discover the pitfalls of Canada's “wildly out-of-control” immigration policy after reports Hezbollah was targeting an Israeli airline in the city.
David Harris, former chief of strategic planning at CSIS, said an influx of Hezbollah and its supporters into Toronto has left the city wide open to a terrorist attack.
Israeli television claimed Hezbollah is targeting El Al Airlines, Israel's national airline, by tracking its staff staying in Toronto.
“We have got even bigger problems than we'd imagined,” Harris said from Ottawa yesterday.
TOLD TO BLEND IN
“It's not a pretty situation and we are perhaps going to be very suddenly reminded of that fact at some point in the future.”
El Al flight staff have reportedly been told to blend in and to refrain from wearing their uniforms in public.
The suspected terrorists were apparently seen at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, one of the hotels where the pilots and crew of the Boeing 767s that fly El Al's direct Tel Aviv-Toronto route stay.
CSIS and the Israeli consulate in Toronto refused to comment on the reports yesterday.
Scott Armstrong, a spokesman for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said he is unaware of any specific threats but has been in regular contact with CSIS, Peel Regional Police and Transport Canada.
Peel Const. Wayne Patterson said police are monitoring the situation but are not investigating any specific threats.
But Harris, now an Insignis Strategic Research director, said the threat is “unsurprising in the extreme.”
He said Toronto is effectively a second home to Hezbollah and its supporters.
It is likely Hezbollah's prominence has grown further from that displayed during the Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006.
“One should be chilled over at that thought,” Harris said.
“With out-of-control immigration numbers, goodness knows what kind of influx we have experienced and then what sort of influence those interests have (generated) within the country in radicalizing individuals already here.”
Bernie Farber, Canadian Jewish Congress CEO, urged caution but said the reports have to be taken seriously.
GET OUT OF HAND
He said the original Israeli television report claimed the terror cell members were arrested in Toronto.
Such reports have a tendency to get out of hand and create unnecessary fear in the community, he said.
He likened it to al-Qaida releasing threatening video tapes but then failing to follow through on their threats.
“I don't want people to think that in any way we are belittling the fact that this can happen because without question we know that this can happen,” Farber said.
Jewish human rights group B'nai Brith Canada called for tougher security protections to be made a priority in the lead-up to an expected Oct. 14 federal election.
It said Israeli security forces have warned repeatedly recently that North American Jewish communities are particularly vulnerable to an attack by Hezbollah.