The simultaneous attacks on Israeli targets in New Delhi and Tbilisi, Georgia, and the exposure of an Iranian terror cell in Bangkok suggest the re-emergence of a war of shadows like that waged between Israel and the Palestinian Black September organisation in the 1970s.
This time the undercover struggle is between Israel and an alliance of Iran and the Lebanese Hizbollah.
The earlier campaign was played out mostly in Europe between undercover agents of the two sides who stalked one another through the back alleys of the continent.
Among the numerous incidents, a senior Mossad agent was gunned down outside a Madrid cafe after meeting a Palestinian double agent, and a diplomat was killed by a letter bomb that reached the Israeli Embassy in London.
APalestinian agent in Paris whose home phone had been rigged with explosives while he was out was blown up by remote control when he lifted the receiver and identified himself after the instrument rang. Another Palestinian was killed in Nicosia by a bomb planted under his bed and set off by remote control after he lay down.
After the killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics by Black September operatives, Prime Minister Golda Meir ordered the Mossad to hunt down those responsible.
The operation would go on for years.
In 1973, Israeli commandos landed at night on Beirut's shore and found vehicles waiting for them. They penetrated the heart of the city where one squad assassinated three Black September officials in their apartments. This force was led by Ehud Barak, now Israel's Defence Minister, who was dressed as a woman with a blond wig. Other squads staged three other raids in the city before withdrawing. The vehicles used by the raiding party had been rented by six Mossad agents who arrived in the city a week before from different countries.
Beirut also saw the culmination of the hunt six years later when the man who had been operations officer of Black September at the time of the Munich killings, Ali Hassan Salameh, was killed by a car bomb planted along a route he regularly drove. According to published reports, the button was pushed by a woman agent in a rented apartment overlooking the route.
Israeli officials believe this week's attacks were ordered by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Al-Quds Force, which is responsible for overseas operations.
Israel has been preparing for a renewal of attacks against Jewish targets abroad in retaliation for the assassination of Hizbollah's military chief, Imad Mughniyeh, four years ago this month and for the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists in Tehran, killings attributed to Israel.
Last month, Thai officials, operating on information supplied by Israel, seized a Hizbollah operative allegedly planning to carry out an attack. He led them to a warehouse containing bomb-making supplies. The Hindustan Times reported yesterday that Israeli intelligence had likewise warned India of an imminent threat to Israeli targets there and had provided a list of 50 Iranian nationals whom it requested be kept under surveillance.
Israel's Public Security Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, said yesterday that Israel would retaliate for this week's events.
The Israeli Ambassador in Thailand Itzhak Shoham said last night that bombs discovered in a Bangkok house were similar to those used in India and Georgia.
Thai police found and defused two magnetic bombs that could be stuck on vehicles. Four Thai civilians were wounded in Bangkok.
- with AP