Brazilian police have said they arrested two people suspected of preparing for “terrorist attacks”, which Israel alleged were being planned by the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah.
A statement late on Wednesday from the Mossad intelligence agency said it provided assistance to Brazil in the “arrest of a terrorist cell that was operated by Hezbollah in order to carry out an attack on Israeli and Jewish targets in Brazil”.
It added that other international agencies were also involved in the operation, but did not name them.
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Brazil’s federal police said they had detained two suspects in Sao Paulo in an operation to “disrupt the preparation of terrorist attacks and secure evidence on the possible recruitment of Brazilians to carry out extremist acts in the country”.
They also conducted 11 search and seizure raids in Sao Paulo, Brasilia and the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, police said in a statement. It did not name the suspects or the alleged targets.
The Mossad said the planned attacks were part of “an extensive network that operated in additional countries”, although it did not name them.
Security experts have long tracked alleged Hezbollah activities in the border areas between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The Iran-backed group is based in Lebanon where it has seats in parliament and the government.
“Given the backdrop of the war in Gaza … Hezbollah and the Iranian regime are continuing to operate around the world in order to attack Israeli, Jewish and Western targets,” added the Mossad statement, which was published on the website of the Israeli prime minister.
The Israel-Gaza war erupted on October 7 after the armed group Hamas, which is allied with Hezbollah and controls Gaza, killed at least 1,400 people in southern Israel and took more than 200 captive. Israel declared war on Hamas and has since subjected Gaza to relentless bombardment, killing more than 10,000 people and ignoring calls for a humanitarian ceasefire.
About 107,000 Jewish people live in Brazil, and community leaders told the Reuters news agency last month that they had noticed a rise in anti-Semitic activity online since the conflict began.
“We’re following with apprehension and concern this Federal Police operation today. Brazil doesn’t have a history of terrorism, and we hope that the conflict in the Middle East isn’t imported over to here,” said Ricardo Berkiensztat, executive president of the Jewish Federation of the State of Sao Paulo (Fisesp).
Brazil has the second-largest Jewish community in Latin America after Argentina.
About 250,000 Jewish people live in Argentina, which was hit by attacks on the Israeli embassy in 1992 and a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires in 1994. Some 114 people were killed in those incidents.