Iran’s Quds Force tried to kill Israeli businessman in Georgia, Jerusalem says
IRGC directed Pakistani terror cell to assassinate Israeli-Georgian businessman Itzik Moshe in Tbilisi, government sources say
Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter
Georgian security officials foiled a recent attempt by the extraterritorial arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Quds Force, to kill a prominent Israeli-Georgian living in the capital Tbilisi, The Times of Israel has learned.
This isn’t the first time Iranian forces have tried to attack Itzik Moshe, according to an Israeli security official.
Moshe, 62, served in the past as a senior Jewish Agency representative in Russia, and founded Israeli House, which seeks to improve Israel’s image in Eastern Europe.
Quds Force operatives in multiple countries planned the attack. Under Iranian direction, a Pakistani team affiliated with al-Qaeda traveled to Tbilisi to gather intelligence and prepare for it.
Quds Force operative Mohammad Reza Ebadi Arablu has been responsible for the terror cell since 2011. His commander was Ali Feyzipour, who has been involved in other Iranian terror plots around the world.
The plot was discovered by Georgian security forces, who became aware of suspicious behavior on the part of one of the Pakistani operatives. They arrested him and subsequently found weapons in his possession.
In addition, Georgian discovered two Georgian-Iranian dual citizens allegedly responsible for passing weapons along to the hit team. They were working with a weapons smuggler in Turkey.
All of the suspects are in Georgian custody and are being interrogated. An investigation by Tbilisi continues into others outside of Georgia who were involved in the plot.
Georgian and Israeli security officials spoke after the arrests, an Israeli security official said.
“This isn’t the first time an attempt to carry out a terror attack on Georgian soil under Iranian orders has been revealed,” the official added.
The attempt follows other recent Iranian plots to harm Israelis in the region. In June, Turkey and Israel foiled a plan to attack Israelis in Istanbul, and in October of last year, there was an attempt to kill Israeli businessmen in Cyprus.
The Israeli official said that European officials are considering declaring the IRGC a terror group. “Iran will pay a heavy price in the international arena” because of its attempts at attacks, the official said.
There is no new travel warning to Georgia in the wake of the plot, according to a National Security Council official.
The State Security Service of Georgia released a statement earlier Tuesday saying that the main suspect received weapons from other Iranian citizens in Georgia through the use of dropoffs and hideouts in order to cover their tracks, adding that several firearms were seized in the arrest and investigation.
The security agency said that several people were arrested in the course of the investigation, including Georgians who held dual citizenship with Iran or Pakistan.
Georgia is a popular travel locale for Israelis, especially the resort town of Batumi, which can be reached via a direct flight from Tel Aviv — as can the capital Tbilisi.
In 2012, local security forces defused a car bomb that was placed under the vehicle of an employee of the Israeli Embassy in Tbilisi.
Amy Spiro contributed to this report.