JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Al Qaeda and Lebanon’s Hezbollah top Israel’s list of suspects in the bomb attack against its diplomats in Jordan, an Israeli official said on Friday.
No group took responsibility for Thursday’s attack on two cars carrying Israeli diplomats. None of them was hurt in the explosion on a road linking the Jordanian capital Amman with a border crossing on the route to Jerusalem.
“My assessment is that this was the work of al Qaeda or Hezbollah,” an Israeli official briefed on Jordanian intelligence told Reuters, while noting that the investigation in Amman was still at its outset. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
Some in Lebanon questioned, however, whether the attack had the hallmarks of Hezbollah activity.
A second Israeli source with knowledge of security around the embassy to Jordan said part of the investigation would focus on “whether there was a leak from inside the Jordanian apparatus” — in other words whether militants had word from within Jordan’s security services about diplomats’ movements.
The source said Israeli diplomats in Jordan, one of the few Arab countries where they are represented, as well as their Jordanian escorts, use unmarked cars and varied routes. That means that the bombers would have managed to have monitored the movements closely.
Oussama Safa, director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies in Beirut, said it was unlikely Hezbollah was responsible because Jordan is not a known field of its operations, nor did the “sloppy” and “low-level” attack fit the group’s modus operandi.
Israel has been bracing for reprisals since the assassination in Damascus of Hezbollah’s military mastermind, Imad Moughniyah.
The Shi’ite group blamed Israel for the 2008 bombing that killed him, and vowed revenge. Israel denied involvement, and said that it has since foiled several Hezbollah attempts to kidnap Israelis abroad.
Al Qaeda, which follows Osama bin Laden’s strict interpretation of Sunni militant Islam, has also made harsh threats against Israelis.
Jordan said in 2002 it arrested members of Hezbollah for trying to smuggle arms through its territory to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Jordan’s close U.S. ties and 1994 peace accord with Israel are unpopular with many in the kingdom, much of whose population is Palestinian. There is strong support for Islamist militants in some areas.
Reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Yara Bayoumy in Beirut; Editing by Alastair Macdonald