Ever wondered why British authorities won’t let you take your laptop in carry-on luggage when flying back from certain Middle East countries? Details of a secret Israeli operation in Syria have now emerged, offering a few answers.
Airlines abruptly stopped letting passengers take laptops in their cabin baggage in March 2017. Passengers were not told what threat their devices posed or why there had been a sudden change in the rules. Now, the lid has been lifted on the spy operation which uncovered the intelligence that led to the ban.
A secret Israeli operation supported by Mossad fed intelligence to the rest of the world after its agents listened in on a conversation between Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) fighters in the group’s then-capital, Raqqa.
Commandos from Israel’s elite Sayeret Matkal force and Mossad technical operatives were scrambled to the desert outside Raqqa in two Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters. The operatives planted listening devices around a room used by IS, and just days later intelligence began flooding in. Jihadis were overheard discussing a plot to blow up a passenger jet using a laptop.
Al-Qaeda bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri had allegedly found a way to fit inside a laptop a small bomb that was capable of bringing down a passenger jet.
After receiving the intelligence, Britain and the US immediately banned laptops from the cabins of several airlines travelling from Middle Eastern cities. The ban has since been lifted in the US but remains in part for the UK.
“We tested it, on a real airplane, on the ground, pressurised,” Kelly, a former Marine general, said. “To say the least, it destroyed the airplane.”
US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly revealed he had the plot tested after believing it could not work.
According to Vanity Fair, Israel is furious with President Trump after he revealed details of the operation to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Israel has insisted Trump’s willingness to divulge information risks the life of one of the Israeli operatives, owing to details of the location of the IS safe house being given.
“Trump betrayed us,” an Israeli military official is quoted as saying.
“And if we can’t trust him, then we’re going to have to do what is necessary on our own if our back is up against the wall with Iran.”