This week marks the 21st anniversary of the 1992 Israeli embassy bombing. Failure to respond to that attack emboldened Hezbollah, which incurred no cost
for the attack. Two years later Hezbollah struck again, this time escalating from a diplomatic to civilian target and blowing up the AMIA Jewish community
center in Buenos Aires.
Yaacov Perry, former director of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), visited Argentina just a week before the embassy bombing for liaison meetings with
his intelligence counterparts. At a polo match and luncheon, the intelligence chiefs discussed "the menace posed by terrorists," though neither had any
idea how close the menace was or how soon it would be realized. Within days, Israeli counterterrorism teams would be back in Buenos Aires investigating the
embassy bombing alongside Argentinean and American law enforcement and intelligence experts. An American International Response Team, including U.S.
explosives experts, deployed to the site of the bombing and determined the type of explosive used by examining the charred remnants of the car bomb. Within
hours of the bombing, investigators found the front section of the vehicle's engine block in a garden below the staircase of an apartment building down the
In time, investigators would determine that the Ford van had been parked at a parking lot located just a couple of blocks from the Israeli embassy for the
hour and a half immediately preceding the bombing--to be precise, from 1:18 p.m. to 2:42 p.m., according to the stamp on the ticket. Three minutes after the
van's departure, the vehicle bomb exploded outside the embassy.
In its claim of responsibility, delivered to a Western news agency in Beirut, Hezbollah's Islamic Jihad Organization declared "with all pride that the
operation of the martyr infant Hussein is one of our continuing strikes against the criminal Israeli enemy in an open-ended war, which will not cease until
Israel is wiped out of existence." Hussein was the five-year-old son of Hezbollah leader Abbas Moussawi, both of whom were killed in an Israeli air strike
on his car on February 16, 1992. Speaking at Moussawi's funeral, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah warned that "Israel will not escape
vengeance. We have received the message that there is no need to respond in an emotional fashion." Fadlallah assured his listeners in another statement
that "there would be much more violence and much more blood would flow."
The CIA noted in a July 1992 intelligence report that Hezbollah held the United States and Israel equally responsible for Moussawi's death and threatened
to target American interests in retaliation. According to the CIA, this was no empty threat: "Hezbollah elements began planning a retaliatory operation
against U.S. interests in Lebanon shortly after Moussawi's death." Hezbollah, the CIA reminded policymakers in a July 1992 report, had executed two
successful attacks targeting U.S. interests in Lebanon the previous year--firing missiles at the U.S. embassy on October 29, 1991, and destroying the
administration building at the American University of Beirut in a car bombing on November 8, 1991.