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Mossad says it busted alleged Iranian plot against Israelis in Cyprus

Israel says it carried out operation on Iranian soil and suspect received instructions and weapons from Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps
Cyprus police in a van carrying an Azeri national suspected of taking part in an alleged plot to attack Israelis on the Mediterranean island, in the capital Nicosia, on 6 December 2021 (AFP)

Israel said on Thursday that its Mossad intelligence agency has carried out an operation on Iranian soil to capture the suspected leader of a plot to attack Israeli businesspeople in Cyprus and foil the attack.

"In a unique operation on Iranian soil, the Mossad captured the head of the cell, who, during an investigation, gave a detailed confession that led to the exposure and dismantlement of the terrorist cell behind the Cyprus attack," the Mossad said in a statement.

 The Israeli agency identified the suspect as Yousef Shahabazi Abbasalilu and said he "received detailed instructions and weapons" from senior officials in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps to carry out an attack.

“We will reach whoever foments terrorism against Jews and Israelis around the world, including on Iranian soil,” said the Mossad statement, quoting an unnamed senior agency official.

The Israeli claim could not be immediately verified, and there was no immediate comment from Iran or Cyprus.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said an attack had been stopped but did not give details.

Netanyahu's office, which oversees the Mossad, released a video appearing to show Abbasalilu recalling conversations he had with members of the Revolutionary Guard.

Israel and Iran have engaged in a deadly shadow war for years. Israel frequently strikes Iranian targets and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, in Syria, in a campaign Israeli leaders have dubbed “the war between the wars”.

Israel is believed to be behind a string of attacks on Iranian nuclear experts and facilities inside Iran over the years.

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Five years ago, Israel unveiled a vast collection of documents about Iran’s nuclear programme that it said the Mossad had stolen from a warehouse in Iran.

More recently, Israel has been ramping up its attacks on nuclear sites and scientists inside Iran, while keeping the US largely in the dark about its covert actions, according to a previous CNN report. 

Last summer, a number of Iranian officials and scientists were killed in Iran, including a senior member of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, who was assassinated in Tehran in broad daylight.

Tensions have been running high between Iran and the West.

The announcement from the Mossad also comes amid renewed efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal. Middle East Eye reported earlier this month that Tehran and Washington appeared to be making good progress in negotiations over a temporary agreement that would see some limited sanctions relief in return for curbing nuclear enrichment.

However, on Wednesday, MEE reported that efforts have faced a setback over disagreements regarding the US demands on prisoner releases.

Netanyahu has said that any deal made between Iran and the US would not bind the actions of Israel.

"We will maintain our right and our obligation to defend ourselves, with our own forces, against any threat whatsoever, throughout the Middle East," he said.

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