Turkish sources revealed new details about an Iranian cell that plotted to kidnap and assassinate Israeli citizens in Istanbul and whose members were arrested in June ahead of then-Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s visit to the country.
A report by the Daily Sabah quoted Turkish sources on Sunday as affirming that the cell, comprised of eight Iranians, had been uncovered by the intelligence and Istanbul police.
It published new pictures and details about its plot, noting that its members were staying at the very same hotel as their intended victims in the Taksim Square area on the European side of Istanbul
Their scheme included kidnapping former Consul General of Israel in Istanbul, Yosef Levi-Sfari, and his wife to kill them later. They also planned to attack Israeli tourists in Istanbul.
The plot comes in retaliation to an Israeli operation in Tehran, in which Colonel Hassan Sayad Khodai was shot dead in May.
Israeli media said Khodai was the deputy head of Unit 840 of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, which is responsible for carrying out operations outside Iran.
The sources said security forces found three pistols and silencers with the detained Iranian cell members. The newspaper published a picture of the weapons and ammunition.
They pointed out that the cell members arrived in Istanbul on different dates and met secretly, noting that the Turkish intelligence relocated the Israelis without drawing the attention of the Iranian agents.
In late May, Israel warned its citizens against traveling to Turkey, citing Iranian threats of revenge for Khodai’s assassination. It renewed its warnings in the first two weeks of June.
Turkey is a popular tourist destination for Israelis and the two countries have been mending their ties after more than a decade of strained relations.
On July 23, Hurriyet newspaper reported that Turkish authorities detained five Iranian nationals suspected of involvement in an alleged plot to assassinate Israeli citizens in Istanbul.
Lapid thanked Turkish authorities for their cooperation in allegedly foiling attacks against Israeli citizens in Turkey and warned that Israel would not “sit idly by” in the face of threats to its citizens from Iran.
He made the comments after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, as the two countries press ahead with efforts to repair ties that have been strained over Turkey’s strong support for the Palestinians.