Israeli missions told to beef up security amid fears of blowback after Iran hit

In rare letter, Foreign Ministry head tells diplomats to maintain ‘highest level of vigilance’ as officials worry Tehran may retaliate over assassination of nuclear scientist

Illustrative: Police gather outside the Israeli embassy building in Athens on December 12, 2014. (AFP/Louisa Gouliamaki)
Illustrative: Police gather outside the Israeli embassy building in Athens on December 12, 2014. (AFP/Louisa Gouliamaki)

The director-general of the Foreign Ministry sent a letter Monday to all Israeli diplomatic missions urging them to up their security protocols and remain alert following the assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Tehran’s finger-pointing at Israel and the Islamic Republic’s vow to avenge his death.

Citing the “events over the weekend,” Alon Ushpiz called on missions to maintain “the highest possible level of preparedness and vigilance for any unusual activity in the area of the mission, at the homes of families and at Jewish and Israeli community centers,” according to the Kan public broadcaster.

In a rare message, Ushpiz said he wanted to “emphasize the severity of the events and the need for all of us to guarantee the safety and health of all mission employees and their family members, without exception.”

The Foreign Ministry confirmed the Kan report and the content of the letter to The Times of Israel.

Channel 12 news reported Saturday that the alertness level had been raised in Israeli embassies around the world and that Jewish communities across the globe were also taking precautions.

Iranian agents and proxy groups have been known to attack Israeli or Jewish targets in the past, including diplomatic missions.

In 1992, a bomb at the Israeli embassy in Argentina killed 29 people, in an attack widely attributed to Iran. In 2012, diplomats were targeted in India, Georgia and Thailand.

Alon Ushpiz (YouTube screenshot)

Fakhrizadeh, the scientist said by Israel and the US to head Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, was killed in a military-style ambush Friday on the outskirts of Tehran, which reportedly saw a truck bomb explode and gunmen open fire on the scientist.

A report on Sunday by the semi-official Fars agency said the assassination was carried out from afar using a remote-controlled machine gun attached to a car. According to the news site, the entire operation was conducted with no human agents on the scene. The account was not attributed to official sources and was not immediately confirmed by Iran. A number of defense analysts cast doubts on the Fars report.

Military personnel stand near the flag-draped coffin of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a nuclear scientist who was killed on Friday, during a funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, November 30, 2020. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

Top Iranian officials have blamed Israel for the death of Fakhrizadeh, the alleged mastermind of Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, and vowed to avenge his death.

The New York Times also reported that Israel was behind the attack, citing three unnamed intelligence officials.

Israel, long suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the last decade, has declined to comment on the killing.

Iran and Hezbollah have been accused of targeting Israelis and Jews around the world on multiple occasions, and Israeli and Jewish sites are seen as prime targets for reprisals following alleged Israeli attacks.

Tehran also has forces at its disposal near Israel’s borders, including troops and proxies in neighboring Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinian Islamic Jihad — and to a lesser extent Hamas — in the Gaza Strip.

There has been no word so far of the Israeli military raising its alertness level along the country’s borders.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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