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Iran replaces head of IRGC intelligence unit following plot allegations

Hossein Taeb was accused of being behind plans to kidnap or kill Israelis in Turkey
Hossein Taeb, Iranian Shia cleric and head of the intelligence apparatus of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seen in Tehran on 24 June 2018 (AFP/Tasnim)

Iran has replaced the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) intelligence unit after he was accused of being behind plans to target Israeli tourists in Turkey.

Iranian state TV reported on Thursday that Hossein Taeb had been appointed as an advisor to the Guards' commander-in-chief Hossein Salami, just days after Israeli media said he was behind plans to kill or kidnap Israelis in Turkey.

He will be replaced by Mohammad Kazemi, previously head of the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Protection unit.

Before becoming the Guards intelligence chief in 2009, Taeb worked at the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Israel raised its Istanbul travel advisory to the highest alert level on 13 June because of what it said was a threat of Iranian attempts to kill or abduct Israelis vacationing in Turkey.

Turkey says it's a 'safe country' after Israel raises threat level
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Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid urged citizens in Turkey to leave "as soon as possible" over the threats.

In an indirect response that did not mention Israel, Turkey's foreign ministry said in a statement last week that while "some countries" had issued travel warnings, Turkey "is a safe country and continues to fight against terrorism".

"These travel warnings are considered to be related to different international developments and motives," it added.

The warnings come amid a surge in tensions between Iran and Israel, with Tehran blaming Israel for a series of attacks on its nuclear and military infrastructure.

According to The New York Times, Iran suspects that Israel killed two of its scientists a few weeks ago by poisoning their food.

Ayoub Entezari and Kamran Aghamolaei died in separate incidents under murky circumstances that Iran suspects were targeted killings, the Times reported, citing an Iranian official and two other sources connected to the government.

Turkey is a popular holiday destination for Israelis, including through more than a decade of diplomatic rupture between the two countries.

Ankara and Israel have mended ties in recent months, with senior Turkish leaders citing the importance of Israel to Turkey's tourism sector.