JEDDAH: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ spy chief was fired on Thursday after a series of targeted assassinations and sabotage incidents in Iran that have been attributed to Israel.
Hossein Taeb, powerful head of the Guards’ intelligence unit, was dismissed as Turkey arrested eight people working for an Iranian terror cell that planned to murder Israeli tourists in Istanbul.
Iran and Israel have been engaged in a shadow war for years, but tensions have soared following a string of high-profile incidents blamed on Israel. Iran has long accused Israel of sabotaging its nuclear sites and killing scientists and senior commanders.
On June 13, Ali Kamani, a member of the Guards’ aerospace division, was killed while on a mission in Khomein in the central province of Markazi. Earlier in June, Col. Ali Esmailzadeh, a commander of the Guards’ external operations unit, the Quds Force, died in a fall from the roof of his home.
And on May 22, Guards Col Sayyad Khodai, 50, was killed outside his home in the east of the Iranian capital by attackers on motorbikes who shot him five times.
Turkish authorities said Iran had sent agents disguised as businessmen, tourists and students to Istanbul to assassinate Israelis in retaliation for these and other attacks.
They said the Iranians had split into four groups of two assassins who could better track their Israeli targets. “The hitmen in the assassination team, who settled in two separate rooms on the second and fourth floors of a hotel in Beyoglu, were detained with a large number of weapons and ammunition,” Turkish security sources said.
Israel last week urged its citizens to leave Turkey because of the “real and immediate danger” coming from Iranian operatives.
“We are full of appreciation for the Turkish government for this professional and coordinated activity,” incoming Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on a visit to Ankara on Thursday.
“We’re not only talking about the murder of innocent Israeli tourists, but also a clear violation of Turkish sovereignty by Iranian terror. We are confident that Turkey knows how to respond to the Iranians on this matter.”
In Tehran, authorities said the dismissed spy boss would become an adviser to the Guards’ commander-in-chief Hossein Salami. Taeb will be replaced by Mohammad Kazemi, previously head of the Guards’ Intelligence Protection unit.
Taeb, a mid-ranking cleric and a member of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s inner circle, was accused by Israeli authorities of being behind the Iranian plot to kill or abduct Israelis on holiday in Turkey.