Israel and allies foiled 50 Iranian terror plots in recent years, Gallant says

During official visit to Azerbaijan, defense minister accuses Tehran of leading ‘worldwide terror campaign’ against Israeli and Jewish targets

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (right) walks with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Minister of Defense Col. Gen. Zakir Hasanov in Baku, Azerbaijan, July 13, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (right) walks with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Minister of Defense Col. Gen. Zakir Hasanov in Baku, Azerbaijan, July 13, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Israel and allied nations foiled more than 50 attacks Iran had attempted to carry out against Israelis and Jews across the world in recent years, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said during a visit to Azerbaijan on Thursday.

Iran has been engaged in a shadow war with Israel 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. Israel in turn, has mutually accused Iran of attempting to target Israelis and Jews abroad, as well as numerous cyberattacks against the Jewish state.

“In recent years, Iran has been leading a worldwide terror campaign, with unprecedented scope, targeting Israelis and Jews around the world,” Gallant told reporters during an official trip to Azerbaijan.

“There have been more than 50 attempted attacks in recent years. Most of them were ready to go, and were foiled at the last moment,” he said.

“Thanks to our defense establishment, thanks to close cooperation with many countries, and thanks to the understanding that Iran is a global threat, we foiled these attempts and saved lives,” Gallant added.

Earlier on Thursday, Gallant met with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, as he began his two-day visit signifying the burgeoning relationship between the two countries.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) talks with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, Azerbaijan, July 13, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/IMoD)

Gallant and Aliyev discussed recent regional and global events, as well as ways to boost strategic ties and cooperation against shared challenges, the defense minister’s office said in a statement.

“In this regard, they also touched on areas of security and industrial cooperation,” the readout said. “Minister Gallant expressed his appreciation to the President for his leadership and personal commitment to deepening the bond between their countries, starting with the opening of the Azerbaijani embassy in Israel.”

“The discussion built on the previous meeting held between the leaders this year, within the framework of the Munich Security Conference,” the statement added.

Gallant later met with Azerbaijan’s defense minister, Col. Gen. Zakir Hasanov; State Border Service chief Col. Gen. Elchin Guliyev; and other senior defense officials.

He was accompanied by his chief of staff, Shachar Katz; military secretary Brig. Gen. Guy Markizeno; and the director of the ministry’s Political-Military Bureau, Dror Shalom.

According to a Defense Ministry statement on Wednesday, the visit was to focus on bolstering strategic ties in “diplomacy, security, and technology.”

Gallant’s arrival came two days after Baku announced it had arrested a 23-year-old Afghan national on suspicion of planning an attack on Israel’s embassy.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (second left) and an Israeli delegation hold a meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev (right) and his staff in Baku, Azerbaijan, July 13, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/IMoD)

Israel is in the midst of a very public expansion of bilateral ties with Azerbaijan, a Shiite-majority country closely allied with Turkey that has seen its partnership with the Jewish state flourish.

In March, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov opened Baku’s first-ever embassy in Israel.

President Isaac Herzog visited Azerbaijan in May, and discussed the Iranian threat and bilateral ties.

Israel is one of Azerbaijan’s leading arms suppliers. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israel provided 69 percent of Baku’s major arms imports in 2016-2020, accounting for 17% of Jerusalem’s arms exports over that period.

Israel stepped up its weapons shipments to Azerbaijan during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan emerged victorious in that six-week war with Armenia, which claimed the lives of more than 6,000 soldiers and resulted in Baku regaining control over disputed territories.

It is an open secret that two of the pillars of the relationship are Azerbaijan’s location on Iran’s northern border and the fact that Israel buys over 30 percent of its oil from Baku.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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