Israel accuses Iran of assassination plot

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett confirmed that attempted killings of Israelis in Cyprus have been “directed by Iran.”

By Erin Viner

The accusation from Jerusalem followed the announcement from Cypriot police that an armed individual had been arrested by local counter-terrorism units for an attempted attack against Israelis on the Mediterranean island. Cypriot Police Chief Stelios Papatheodorou confirmed that “a pistol and cartridges were found” in possession of the suspect, who was identified as an Azeri holding a Russian passport between 38 or 39 in age.  A silencer was also reportedly discovered in the gunman’s vehicle.

The suspect is believed to have been arrested on 27 September in the capital Nicosia, just after crossing by car from a checkpoint linking the Turkish-controlled north and the southern parts of the ethnically divided island, according to Cypriot news agencies citing  police sources.

The alleged assassin appeared before a magistrates court on Monday, which approved an 8-day remand upon police request.

“It is a sensitive case, which is why a remand request was held behind closed doors,” Chief Papatheodorou told reporters.

Contrary to initial media reports, Israeli billionaire business mogul Teddy Sagi issued a statement denying he had been the suspect’s intended target.  A statement released by Israeli Prime Minister Bennett’s Media Advisor reiterated, “As opposed to some of the reports yesterday regarding an incident in Cyprus, I can clarify on behalf of the security establishment, that this was an act of terror that was orchestrated by Iran against Israeli businesspeople living in Cyprus. This is not a criminal act and the Israeli businessman Teddy Sagi was not the target of the attack.”

Hinting that Jerusalem’s intelligence services had contributed to Cyprus‘ foiling of the suspected attack plot, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told reporters when asked about the matter, “There are security threats. As you can see, the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency), the Mossad, all of the security forces know how to handle them.”

“The fact is that we’re there. We’re minding matters,” added Lapid, who also serves as Israeli Alternate Premier.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to TV7’s request for comment.

When asked for a response by Reuters, the Iranian Embassy in Nicosia responded Israel’s accusation of orchestrating the assassination plot in an emailed statement: “This regime is always making such a baseless allegation against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”