Iran claims to nab 14 members of ‘terrorist team’ linked to Israel

Judicial official says squad planned to carry out assassinations of ‘various individuals,’ without providing details

Illustrative: An Iranian police officer walks at Shahid Beheshti Port in the southeastern Iranian coastal city of Chabahar, February 25, 2019. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Illustrative: An Iranian police officer walks at Shahid Beheshti Port in the southeastern Iranian coastal city of Chabahar, February 25, 2019. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Iran arrested 14 members of a “terrorist team” with alleged ties to Israel that planned on carrying out assassinations in the country, local media reported Monday.

A judicial official announced the 14 were detained in northwestern Iran “as they were seeking to identify and assassinate various individuals,” the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported, without providing any further information.

Iran occasionally announces the detention of people it says are spying for foreign countries, including the United States and Israel, without providing proof to back up such claims. The Islamic Republic has been engaged in a shadow war with the Jewish state for years, with Tehran accusing Jerusalem of being behind a series of sabotage attacks and assassinations targeting its nuclear program, carried out alongside the US.

In February, Iran claimed to arrest “mercenaries” it alleged carried out a drone strike on a defense facility in the city of Isfahan a month prior.

Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi will travel to meet senior officials in Washington, DC, this week to discuss the Iranian threat, according to a US media report in the news site Axios last week.

An official in the Prime Minister’s Office said dates have not been finalized, while a White House National Security Council spokesperson told Axios there was nothing to confirm.

File: Screen grab from an unverified video circulating on social media said to show explosion at a defense facility in Iran’s Isfahan after an alleged drone strike, January 28, 2023. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Both Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and Hanegbi last week warned of Israel’s capabilities to strike Tehran’s nuclear sites, addressing concerns over a report that revealed that Iran was constructing a new subterranean nuclear facility that is likely impenetrable to American bunker-buster bombs.

Halevi warned Tuesday that “there are possible negative developments on the horizon that could prompt action” against Iran.

“Iran has made more progress in uranium enrichment than ever before. We are also closely examining other aspects of [their] path to nuclear capability,” the IDF chief of staff said at a conference hosted by the Institute for Policy and Strategy of Reichman University in Herzliya.

“We have abilities and others have abilities. We have the ability to hit Iran. We are not indifferent to what Iran is trying to build around us, and it is difficult for Iran to be indifferent to the line we are taking,” he added.

Also speaking at the conference, Hanegbi said Israel was not surprised by  reports on Iran’s new nuclear site.

Hanegbi acknowledged that “of course, it limits the ability to attack,” but added that “there is no place that can’t be reached.”

He declined to clarify whether Israel could successfully strike such a site, or if only the US has such capabilities. Hanegbi stressed that Israel prefers that Iran’s nuclear program be reined in by an agreement rather than a military response — but that Jerusalem would take action if needed.

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