Three Iranian agents said caught in Turkey plotting to kill Israelis

Turkish media says men were found with a rifle, two pistols and silencers; incident comes a month after Israel warned its citizens to leave Turkey amid concrete Iran plot

Turkish riot police officers walk in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on June 14, 2022. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)
Turkish riot police officers walk in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on June 14, 2022. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)

Turkish forces have foiled another attempt by Iranian agents to kill Israelis in Istanbul, arresting three men, local media reported Friday.

According to the reports, the men were detained with a rifle, two pistols, silencers and ammunition on July 14 and were brought before a court Thursday to have their remand extended.

The reports come a month after Israeli officials issued an urgent appeal to all its citizens to leave Istanbul immediately, and reconsider non-essential travel to other parts of Turkey, warning that Iranian agents were ready to kidnap or kill Israelis there as Tehran seeks revenge for the slayings of officers blamed on Israel.

The men reportedly tried to target Israeli tourists staying at a hotel near Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

Tensions between Israel and Iran have intensified in recent months, after the assassination of an Iranian officer in Tehran, airstrikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria, threatening rhetoric from Iranian leaders and Iran’s increasing violations of nuclear agreements.

Last month the Mossad spy agency and its local counterparts managed to thwart three Iranian attacks targeting Israeli civilians in Istanbul, a senior security official briefing Hebrew media said at the time.

The account came a day after Turkish media reported that 10 people had been arrested as part of an Iranian plot targeting Israelis in Turkey.

The security official said Mossad intelligence had led Turkish authorities to 10 members of an Iranian cell who were allegedly planning to kidnap and murder a former Israeli ambassador to Turkey and his wife.

The Mossad chartered a private aircraft to immediately bring the pair and others in Istanbul back to the country, Hebrew reports said. The name of the diplomat was not released.

According to the official, the Mossad also managed to thwart two other plots against Israelis in Istanbul, with the tourists escaping the country at the “last possible second.”

He said the raids were carried out in coordination with Turkish authorities, thanking them for their efforts in thwarting Iranian attacks to date.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh has said that Israeli claims that Tehran is targeting Israelis in Turkey are “baseless” and part of a “pre-designed scenario to destroy relations between the two Muslim countries.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, center, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pose for a photo at the Saadabad Palace, in Tehran, Iran, July 19, 2022. (Sergei Savostyanov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Iran and Israel have been engaged in a years-long shadow war but tensions have ratcheted up following a string of high-profile incidents Tehran has blamed on Israel.

The Islamic Republic claimed Israel was responsible for the killing of Revolutionary Guards Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei in his Tehran home on May 22. Khodaei’s assassination was the most high-profile killing inside Iran since the November 2020 killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which also handles operations outside of the country, recently announced that it was replacing the head of its intelligence unit Hossein Taeb, who had held the position for over a decade.

Taeb has been repeatedly named in Hebrew media reports as the man behind the planned attacks on Israelis in Turkey.

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