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Iran claims to arrest ‘Israeli spy’

State media reports arrest in East Azerbaijan province; Islamic Republic says it has detained others with ties to international intelligence organizations

FILE: Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech marking the Iranian New Year, in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 21, 2021. (Office of the Iranian supreme leader via AP)
FILE: Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech marking the Iranian New Year, in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 21, 2021. (Office of the Iranian supreme leader via AP)

Iran on Monday claimed through state media to have arrested an Israeli spy in the country, as well as other people who were in contact with other international intelligence agencies.

“An Israeli spy has been arrested in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province… also other spies who were in contact with several countries’ intelligence services have been arrested as well,” Iranian media quoted an Intelligence Ministry official as saying.

Iran occasionally announces the detention of people it claims are foreign spies, including for the US and Israel, without any further report on their fates.

Israel and Iran are thought to be in a wide-ranging espionage battle that has been going on for decades. The rivalry escalated in recent years, after Iran began accelerating its nuclear program. It was given another boost after the administration of former US president Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew from the nuclear deal Iran had reached with world powers.

Iran in November blamed Israel for the assassination of its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed in a shooting on an Iranian road, reportedly involving a high-tech weapon that was remotely operated.

In July 2020, Iran executed a former translator convicted of spying on its forces for the US and Israel, including helping to locate a top Iranian general who was killed later in a US drone strike.

In February 2020, Iran’s top court confirmed a death sentence for an Iranian man convicted of spying for the CIA, with state media alleging that he had shared details of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program with the American spy agency.

Late last year, Iran released Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was serving a 10-year prison sentence for spying for Israel, in exchange for three Iranians.

In 2019, Iran said it arrested 17 Iranians accused of spying on the country’s nuclear and military sites for the CIA and reported that some of them had been sentenced to death.

Judah Ari Gross and agencies contributed to this report.

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