Turkey detains Iranian intel cell planning attack on Israeli tourists - report

i24NEWS - AFP

3 min read
Tourists pass through a police checkpoint in Istanbul as the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Mosque are surrounded by a police fence for security reasons, on June 14, 2022.
Ozan Kose/AFPTourists pass through a police checkpoint in Istanbul as the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Mosque are surrounded by a police fence for security reasons, on June 14, 2022.

The Iranians split into four groups of two assassins to track their Israeli targets

Turkey detained suspects allegedly working for an Iranian intelligence cell that planned to kidnap and assassinate Israeli diplomats and tourists visiting or living in Istanbul, local media reported Thursday.

Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT), together with police, busted the Iranian intelligence service operation on June 17, according to Hurriyet Daily News. The report said a former Israeli diplomat and his wife, who were staying in a hotel in Istanbul's Beyoglu district, were also targeted by the operatives.

Nearly ten suspects, who were not all Iranian nationals, were detained in a raid on three houses.  The intelligence agents were disguised as students, while members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards were undercover as businessmen and tourists to kidnap and to assassinate Israelis.

The Iranians had split into four groups of two assassins who could better track their Israeli targets.

"The hitmen in the assassination team, who settled in two separate rooms on the second and fourth floors of a hotel in Beyoglu, were (detained) with a large number of weapons and ammunition," IHA said.

Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad, already evacuated the targeted Israelis from their addresses to Tel Aviv on a private plane. Israel last week urged its citizens to leave Turkey immediately because of "possible" threats from Iranian operatives.

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 Col. Sayyad Khodai in his Tehran home on May 22.

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The reported detentions are likely to come up during a visit to Ankara later on Thursday by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who is expected to take charge as prime minister of a caretaker government in coming days. 

Turkey's relations with Israel have been improving after years of tensions and tourism is central to the two countries' economic ties.

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