JERUSALEM, Israel – Iran was behind an attempted terror attack against Israelis in Cyprus last week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s spokesman revealed on Monday.
Some reports initially claimed that the thwarted attack was an assassination attempt against Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi over his business dealings. But the Israeli government disputed those reports and said on Monday that the incident was really an attempt by Iran to attack Israelis in Cyprus.
"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,” Bennett’s spokesman Matan Sidi said.
“This is not a criminal act and the Israeli businessman Teddy Sagi was not the target of the attack,” he added.
The Teddy Sagi Group also released a statement rejecting early reports that the billionaire was the target of an assassination.
“It was an attempted terror attack, staged by Iran, against other Israelis in Cyprus,” the company said.
Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported that the foiled Iranian attack was in retaliation for the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the former head of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran blames Israel for Fakhrizadeh’s assassination.
The report from Kan did not cite sources and said it was unclear if the Israelis involved in the Iranian plot were targeted because they were Israelis, or because they were believed to be linked to Israel’s security establishment.
Meanwhile, a report from Israel’s Channel 13 suggested that the Iranian attack was in response to a recent Mossad operation to collect more information about Ron Arad, an Israeli Air Force pilot who was captured during an operation in southern Lebanon in 1986 and hasn’t been heard from since 1988.
Israel believes Arad, who is presumed to be dead, was captured by the Shiite Amal movement before being transferred to Iran. Iran is believed to have eventually transferred Arad back to Lebanon, where he died.
Prime Minister Bennett revealed the Mossad operation to discover Arad's whereabouts on Monday.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the thwarted terror attack proves that Iran is a major threat to Israel and the international community.
“As was publicized recently, an Iranian attack against Israeli targets in Cyprus was foiled,” Gantz said during a meeting at the Knesset. “Iran continues to be a global and regional threat, as well as a challenge to Israel, and we will continue to operate in order to protect our citizens and the State of Israel anywhere from any threat.”
Israel considers Iran to be its biggest enemy in the region and claims the Islamic Republic is weeks away from acquiring enough weapons-grade material to assemble a nuclear bomb – an accusation Iran denies.
Israel says it is prepared to use its military power to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.