IAF F-16I Israel news photo: Flash 90

Israel will hold Iranian proxy militia Hizbullah and the state of Lebanon responsible for any attempt to assassinate Israelis abroad, and it will retaliate, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Sunday.

An Egyptian newspaper Saturday reported that three terrorists linked to Al Qaeda were arrested before they carried out a plot to assassinate Israel's ambassador to Cairo, Shalom Cohen.

But Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that Hizbulah was "certainly" the group behind the plot. Speaking on Voice of Israel government radio, Ayalon warned: "I have one message here: If, God forbid, one hair falls off the head of any Israeli representative abroad, or of even an Israeli who is not an official representative, tourists, etc., we will consider Hizbullah responsible. "The outcome, for Hizbullah, will, I think, be of the utmost gravity," Ayalon said. "For Lebanon too."

"It is important ... to relay this warning to Lebanon, which is responsible for Hizbullah -- that they will suffer the consequences if they carry out assassinations of Israelis," the minister from the Israel Our Home party added.

Ayalon did not give a direct answer when he was asked how Israel knows that Hizbullah and not Al Qaeda was behind the plot. "I don't want to get into the intelligence or operational issues here,” he said, “but certainly there is both an ideological connection and a professional connection of sorts here."

In April, Egypt accused Hizbullah agents of planning attacks against Israeli targets on Egyptian soil.

Hizbullah had no comment on Ayalon's remarks but a Hizbullah official warned Sunday that Israel will suffer a blow if it attacks Lebanon.

"If the threats of Defense Minister Ehud Barak are serious, he should know that if he takes foolish action against Lebanon, the July-August war of 2006 will look like a joke," Hizbullah Executive Council Chairman Hashem Safieddine said. He added that while the militia was not interested in war with Israel, it is always vigilant.

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