Turkey reportedly nabs Iran cell plotting to harm Israelis

Turkish media says Iranian operatives monitored Israeli tourists, including former Israeli ambassador and wife, for some time ahead of planned shooting-abduction attack; powerful Iran intel chief dismissed after reports broke out

Itamar Eichner|
Turkey thwarted an attempted attack on Israeli targets in Istanbul last weekend, Turkish media reported on Thursday.
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  • According to the reports, Iranian operatives were monitoring Israeli tourists for some time, planning a shooting-abduction attack. One such target, reports claim, was a former Israeli ambassador and his wife who were staying at a hotel in the city's Beyoğlu district.
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    כוחות ביטחון טורקיים באיסטנבול
    כוחות ביטחון טורקיים באיסטנבול
    Turkish security forces; Soul Hotel in Istanbul where members of the Iranian cell were captured
    (Photo: AFP)
    Last week, Israeli intelligence sources said Hossein Taeb, the powerful chief of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) intelligence unit, has been "trying in recent days to orchestrate an attack on innocent Israelis in Turkey as part of a mad and sickening campaign to shore up the status of the Iranian security establishment."
    Minutes after the report of the bungled Iranian plot broke out on Turkish media, Iranian state television announced that Taeb — who has served in his current position since 2009 — will be dismissed.
    The station gave no reason for the change, but said Taeb had been appointed as an advisor to the Guards' Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami.
    He will be replaced by Mohammad Kazemi, previously head of the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Protection unit.
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    חוסיין טאייב
    חוסיין טאייב
    Revolutionary Guards' intelligence chief Hossein Taeb
    Meanwhile, Turkish media reported that Turkish intelligence agency MIT and local police arrested eight suspects last Friday, among them Iranian citizens and local collaborators, at Istanbul's Soul Hotel and three rented apartments in the area.
    The suspects were members of two cells, with the Iranian spies and Revolutionary Guards officers disguising themselves as students, businessmen and tourists. The reports further said the attack was thwarted at the planning stage, and that the investigation into the event was ongoing.
    According to the report, Israel's foreign intelligence agency Mossad located the Israelis who were supposed to be the target of the attack, and whisked them to Israel by private planes.
    Israel raised its Istanbul travel advisory to the highest alert level on June 13 because of the Iranian threat to Israelis.
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    איסטנבול טורקיה
    איסטנבול טורקיה
    Istanbul, Turkey
    (Photo: Adir Yanko)
    Israel and Turkey have been reportedly working together to rescue Israelis from the clutches of Iranian hitmen, in some cases according to reports, managing to prevent attacks mere seconds before prior.
    Amid the ongoing security jitters, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid jetted off to Turkey on Thursday.
    The Iranian plot is part of a retaliation campaign following a flurry of high-profile deaths that struck the Islamic Republic in recent weeks which Tehran blames on Israel.
    Meanwhile, a court in Iran on Thursday ordered the United States government to pay over $4 billion to the families of Iranian nuclear scientists who have been killed in targeted attacks in recent years, state-run media reported.
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    נשיא איראן איברהים ראיסי
    נשיא איראן איברהים ראיסי
    Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The largely symbolic ruling underscores the escalating tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran's rapidly advancing nuclear program, with negotiations to restore the tattered atomic accord at a standstill.
    Although Tehran has blamed Israel in the past for slayings targeting Iranian nuclear scientists since a decade ago, Iran did not directly accuse its arch-foe Israel in its announcement. Iran has not recognized Israel since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the pro-West monarchy and brought Islamists to power.
    The court mentioned Israel only in saying the U.S. supported the "Zionist regime" in its "organized crime" against the victims.
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