Trial in Cyprus Exposes Hezbollah Plots

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- A terror suspect on trial in Cyprus for allegedly plotting attacks on Israeli tourists admitted he's a member of Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based terror group.

Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, 24, a Lebanese and Swedish citizen, said he came to Cyprus on a business trip with no preplanned intent to harm anyone. But he did admit he'd been instructed to gather information on Israeli tourists.

Yaacoub said before he left Lebanon, a masked man told him to compile a list of flight arrivals from Israel, bus routes used by Israeli tourists, and Kosher restaurants and other places they frequented on the island.

"I never saw the face of Ayman because he was always wearing a mask," Yaacoub told the court.

Cypriot police arrested Yaacoub last July, a few days before the terror bombing in Burgas that killed five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver. Some suspect Hezbollah was behind the attack.

Police initially charged Yaacoub with 17 terror-related offenses, later dropping references to terrorism and reducing the number of charges to eight, including membership in a "criminal" organization whose aim is to target Israeli citizens worldwide.

Yaacoub admitted to gathering the information from November 2011 to January 2012 and during the first week of July. He also testified to similar missions in Turkey, Holland and France.

The European Union has been reticent to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Because Cyprus is a member state, some say the outcome of Yaacoub's trial may influence the E.U. to finally make the designation.

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