By Aryeh Savir
Fawzi Ayoub, a Hezbollah terrorist who was imprisoned in Israel for an attempted terrorist attack in Yerushalayim and was also on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list, finally met his death in Syria last month. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) provides us with a glimpse in to the life of an international terrorist.
On May 26, 2014, Hezbollah announced the death of Hajj Fawzi Mustafa Muhammad Ayoub (Hajj Abu Abbas). He was a senior field operative with a long history of terrorist activity abroad. According to Hezbollah he was killed while “fulfilling his duty of Jihad.” There are two versions of where he died. Lebanese and Syrian media reported that he was commanding a Hezbollah force in Aleppo, and was killed there. However, “Lebanese security sources” and a Syrian source reported that he was killed in the Syrian town of Nawa in the southern Golan Heights, in the Dara’a province. It was also reported that last year he was wounded in the battles at Al-Qusayr.
Ayoub’s career as a terrorist spanned over three continents. He was a Lebanese Shi’ite who was born in Beirut in 1966 and lived in the south Lebanon town of Ain Qana. He joined Lebanon’s Shi’ite Amal Movement and then Hezbollah. As a Hezbollah operative he was involved, along with two others, in the 1988 attempt to hijack an Iraqi plane in Bucharest to attain the release of Shi’ite clerics being held prisoner in Baghdad. He was caught by the Romanian authorities before he could act, but one of his accomplices carried out the attack. The hijacked plane crashed in the Saudi Arabian desert and 60 people were killed. Some months later Hezbollah managed to release Ayoub by bribing Romanian officials.
After release from jail in Romania in 1988 he moved to Canada, and four years later became a naturalized Canadian citizen. He married a woman from Detroit and went to work in a supermarket, and also enrolled in a university. According to the American attorney general, for a certain period of time he lived and worked in Michigan. In 1994 he divorced his wife and married a woman of Lebanese extraction. At the beginning of 2000 he returned to Lebanon with his family and opened a bakery.
He returned to Lebanon on a Canadian passport and resumed activity in Hezbollah. He was trained to carry out sensitive missions abroad, and underwent training in the use of explosives in secret Hezbollah apartments in Beirut. He was taught how to hide his Lebanese identity and told to speak only English once in Israel.
During the 1990’s and the beginning of this century Hezbollah was responsible for a series of attempted terrorist attacks in Israel through the agency of Lebanese and Muslim terrorist operatives sent from Europe, traveling on real or false passports. In the ITIC’s assessment, Hezbollah’s objective was to provide backup for the efforts of the Palestinian terrorist organizations, led by Hamas, to sabotage the Oslo Accords with terrorist attacks and weaken the Palestinian Authority (PA). The attempted attacks, which were carried out by Hezbollah’s overseas terrorist squads, in the ITIC’s assessment in coordination with and directed by Iran, were not successful. The Hezbollah operatives sent to Israel were caught and detained by the Israeli security Forces.
The terrorist attacks in Israel and the PA-administered areas originating in Europe usually had a set modus operandi. In a European country, a cover identity was created and contact was made with local Hezbollah operatives. The terrorist operative received a foreign passport and preparations were made for his journey to Israel. Later, the operative arrived in Israel with his non-Lebanese passport and began his operations, including gathering of intelligence, making explosives and IEDs, and then carrying out an attack. During the time Hezbollah followed the above modus operandi a number of its terrorist operatives were detained in Israel, among them Hussein Miqdad (1996), Steven Smirk (1997), Fawzi Ayoub (2000) and Jihad Shuman (2001).
In the ITIC’s assessment, Fawzi Ayoub was sent to Israel to carry out a showcase terrorist attack, or possibly to gather intelligence about important targets within Israel to prepare a terrorist foundation for Hezbollah operatives. During interrogation he admitted that one of his missions was to try to secure the release Hezbollah operatives imprisoned in Israel, possibly by abducting Israelis.
From Jerusalem he went to Hebron where he contacted local Palestinian terrorist operatives. He was detained and held by the Palestinian security services in Hebron. On June 25, 2002, during an IDF action in Hebron, he was detained and interrogated by the Israeli security forces. After his interrogation the IDF chief of staff signed an order for his imprisonment. In 2004 he was released by Israel and returned to Lebanon as part of the Tannenbaum exchange deal
On August 5, 2009, a Michigan district court filed a grand jury indictment against him in absentia. He was accused of using and of attempting to use a counterfeit American passport to enter Israel to carry out a terrorist attack for Hezbollah. With the indictment he was put on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list.
On May 30, 2014, Hezbollah held a formal funeral for him in the village of Ain Qana in south Lebanon. It was attended by Hezbollah operatives and activists, clerics and Lebanese public figures. Mourners waved Hezbollah flags and pictures of senior Hezbollah terrorist operatives killed in Syria, and chanted slogans such as “At your orders, oh Nasrallah,” and “Zeynab will not be captured again.”
Hezbollah justifies its involvement in the fighting in Syria by calling it a battle against the jihadist terrorism of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations, which, according to Hezbollah, threaten Lebanon’s security. The death of Fawzi Ayoub shows Hezbollah’s readiness to deploy its most capable manpower in the battle at Aleppo and other key locations. That included sending Ayoub, an operative with extensive experience in the organization’s overseas terrorist activities, since in any case he had been burned and could no longer carry out clandestine missions outside of Lebanon.
Tazpit News Agency