Turkey busts Iranian cell reportedly targeting Israeli tourists

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Turkey has detained eight people allegedly working for an Iranian intelligence cell that planned to assassinate Israeli tourists in Istanbul, local media reported Thursday.

The eight, who were not all Iranian nationals, were detained in a raid last week in three houses in Istanbul’s popular Beyoglu district, the private IHA news agency reported.

Israel last week urged its citizens to leave Turkey immediately because of “possible” threats from Iranian operatives.

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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 Sayyad Khodai in his Tehran home on May 22.

IHA said Iran sent agents disguised as businessmen, tourists and students to Istanbul to assassinate Israelis in retaliation for Khodai’s murder and other attacks.

It said 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.

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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