The Israeli army on Wednesday revealed that the Military Intelligence Unit 8200 foiled an Islamic State attempt to bomb a flight from Australia last August.
“The unit provided exclusive intelligence that led to the prevention of an air attack by the Islamic State in 2017 in Australia,” a senior IDF officer said.
“The foiling of the attack saved dozens of innocent lives and proved Unit 8200’s position as a major player in the intelligence fight against the Islamic State,” the officer said, on condition of anonymity.
Wednesday’s revelation was an unusual move for the Israeli army, which generally keeps mum on the operations of the secretive Unit 8200, which is similar to the American National Security Agency, collecting information from electronic communication, also referred to as signals intelligence.
“Thank you to the Israeli intelligence services. We revealed today that the security agencies prevented the shooting down of an Australian airliner. This is just one of the dozens of terrorist attacks that we have stopped around the world. [The intelligence services] deserve all the support we can give, not only for protecting the citizens of Israel, but for protecting people all over the world,” he said in a speech to American Jewish leaders.
Indeed, this prowess in intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism is a central selling point for Israel in its efforts to create and maintain relationships with foreign countries.
The foiled attack
In August, Australian security forces arrested two men suspected of trying to place an improvised explosive device on an Etihad Airways flight out of Sydney in a plot directed by Islamic State.
One of the men, a 49-year-old from Sydney, brought the device to Sydney airport on July 15 in a piece of luggage that he had asked his brother to take with him on the flight — without telling the brother that the bag contained explosives, Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan said at the time. But the bag never got past the check-in counter. Instead, Phelan said, the 49-year-old man left the airport with the bag, and his brother continued onto the flight without it.
“This is one of the most sophisticated plots that has ever been attempted on Australian soil,” Phelan told reporters at the time. “If it hadn’t been for the great work of our intelligence agencies and law enforcement over a very quick period of time, then we could well have a catastrophic event in this country.”
Read More: Times of Israel