Turkey, Israel foil Iran-led assassination attempt on businessman in Istanbul

CNC Advanced Technology chairman, Yair Geller. (CNC Advanced Technology)
CNC Advanced Technology chairman, Yair Geller. (CNC Advanced Technology)
Short Url
Updated 12 February 2022

Turkey, Israel foil Iran-led assassination attempt on businessman in Istanbul

CNC Advanced Technology chairman, Yair Geller. (CNC Advanced Technology)
  • Intelligence agencies work together to save CNC Advance Technologies owner Yair Geller
  • Joint effort comes as Turkey, Israel seek to normalize diplomatic relations

ISTANBUL: Intelligence agents from Turkey and Israel have thwarted an Iran-led plot to kill an Israeli-Turkish tycoon following a monthslong surveillance operation.

The planned victim was Istanbul-based Yair Geller, the 75-year-old owner of CNC Advance Technologies. He was targeted in retaliation for the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in 2020, an act that Tehran considered to be an Israeli operation.

Turkey’s national intelligence agency, MIT, said a nine-person network of hit men tracked Geller for a long time, taking photographs of his daily life, his workplace and his home in Istanbul. The gang used multiple Turkish and Iranian phone numbers to avoid detection.

MIT informed its Israeli counterpart, Mossad, about the gang’s plan before it turned operational and the two sides worked together to move the businessman to a safe house protected by Mossad operatives.

Once Geller was safe, MIT moved in on the hit men and arrested all but one of them. Most are Turkish nationals, but the head of the group is Iranian Saleh Moshtagh Bigohouz. One member of the group, who has close ties to the Iranian intelligence service, remains at large.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

This is not the first time Turkish authorities have foiled such an assassination attempt. In 2009 they prevented a Hezbollah attack on an Israeli target in Turkey by implementing high-security measures in three major cities.

That attack was planned as revenge for the death of Imad Mughniyeh, who was the founding member of Lebanon’s Islamic Jihad organization and No. 2 in Hezbollah’s leadership.

Experts said the timing of the operation to protect Geller was significant as it came amid the discussions between Turkey and Israel to normalize diplomatic relations, adding that Iran might have been motivated to disrupt such talks.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have held four phone conversations this year in an attempt to mend frayed ties, and Herzog is expected to visit Turkey soon.

Dr. Nimrod Goren, president of Mitvim, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, said the cooperation between the two countries’ intelligence agencies would be beneficial in helping to improve bilateral relations.

“It conveys a message to the Israeli public that Turkey is not in the Iranian camp, that security cooperation between Israel and Turkey is possible and that improved channels between the countries can bring tangible benefits and save lives,” he told Arab News.

One of the topics for rapprochement between the two countries is energy, an industry in which Geller operates.

“Over the last few years, most media reports regarding Israel-Turkey relations carried negative crisis-related news, often portraying Turkey as a security threat to Israel given its ties with Hamas and Iran,” Goren said.

But the Geller story delivered the opposite message, as it portrayed Turkey as a potential security ally, he added.

“In that regard, the successful intelligence cooperation and the fact that it was made visible can help in rebuilding trust, improving perceptions, and preparing public opinion toward a new chapter in Israel-Turkey relations,” Goren said.

Jason M. Brodsky, policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran, agreed that the cooperation between the intelligence agencies represented a gesture by Erdogan ahead of Herzog’s visit.

“Turkish-Israeli relations over the last decade have been fraught, with Turkey reportedly compromising an Israeli intelligence ring working in Iran in early 2012,” he told Arab News.

“This latest episode is an attempt by Ankara to turn the page and build confidence, but there is still a long way to go, especially with curbing Hamas activity inside Turkey. That will test this exercise.”

Iranian operatives have been active on Turkish soil for a long time. They have been involved in several kidnapping and assassination attempts, and have been closely monitored by MIT. Last year, a gang of Iranian spies was captured after being accused of trying to kidnap an Iranian dissident military official.

Another Iranian citizen was arrested last year for helping to plan the assassination of Iranian dissident Masoud Molavi Vardanjani in Istanbul in 2019.

An Iranian cell also attempted to abduct Iranian dissident Shahnam Golshani, leading to another counterintelligence operation by Turkey that led to the arrest of 11 suspects, including an Iranian national.

Brodsky said there had been an uptick in the Turkish government’s disclosure of Iranian intelligence plots in the country in recent years.

“This latest revelation indicates some continued tension with Tehran against the backdrop of gas disputes and other irritants in the bilateral relationship,” he said.

Louis Fishman, associate professor at Brooklyn College, said the foiling of the assassination attempt on Geller in Turkey should not have come as a surprise.

“Turkey maintains strong economic ties with Israel despite the harsh rhetoric of the past between former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Erdogan. If Iran had succeeded in carrying out such an act, it would have been seen as a huge failure on the part of the Turkish security forces,” he told Arab News.

The intelligence operation also indicated that cooperation between the security teams was “working at high level,” Fishman said, adding that it was “another sign that Turkey is really serious about jump-starting its relations with Israel in the post-Netanyahu era.

“Such news stories are important in building trust among the Israeli public, which is still quite skeptical of Turkey’s attempts to mend ties. (But) Israeli government members will still want proof that Turkey will curb Hamas activities in Turkey.”


One dead, four hurt in Iraqi Kurdistan blast: statement

One dead, four hurt in Iraqi Kurdistan blast: statement
Updated 7 sec ago

One dead, four hurt in Iraqi Kurdistan blast: statement

One dead, four hurt in Iraqi Kurdistan blast: statement
IRBIL: One person was killed and four others, two women and two children, were injured when a bomb exploded Friday in the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, counter-terrorism forces said.
“An explosive device planted in a car detonated, leading to the death of the driver and the injury of... two women and two children,” a statement said, without elaborating on the victims’ identities or a motive for the attack.

Mahsa Amini did not die from blows to body: Iranian coroner

Mahsa Amini did not die from blows to body: Iranian coroner
Updated 41 min 35 sec ago

Mahsa Amini did not die from blows to body: Iranian coroner

Mahsa Amini did not die from blows to body: Iranian coroner
  • Mahsa Amini died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police
  • Her death ignited more than two weeks of nationwide protests

DUBAI: An Iranian coroner’s report into the death of Mahsa Amini said she did not die due to blows to the head and limbs but from multiple organ failure caused by cerebral hypoxia, the official news agency IRNA reported on Friday.
The death of 22-year-old Amini while in the custody of Iran’s morality police has ignited more than two weeks of nationwide protests. Her father has said she suffered bruises to her legs, and has held the police responsible for her death.
The coroner’s report said her death was “not caused by blow to the head and limbs.” It did not say whether she had suffered any injuries. The report did say she fell while in custody due to “underlying diseases.”
“Due to the ineffective cardio-respiratory resuscitation in the first critical minutes, she suffered severe hypoxia and as a result brain damage.”


Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media

Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media
Updated 5 min 43 sec ago

Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media

Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media
  • Rights groups say more than 150 people have been killed
  • Women have played a prominent role, waving and burning headscarves

DUBAI: Iranian authorities have denied reports security forces killed a 16-year-old girl during protests ignited by the death of a woman in police custody, Iranian media reported on Friday, saying she committed suicide by falling off a roof.
Social media reports and rights group Amnesty International have said Sarina Esmaeilzadeh was killed by security forces when she was struck with batons on the head during protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.
Authorities earlier this week gave a similar cause of death — falling off a roof — for 17-year-old Nika Shakarami, who activists say was killed in Tehran while demonstrating over Amini’s death.
Rights groups say more than 150 people have been killed, hundreds have been injured and thousands arrested in a crackdown on nationwide protests marking the biggest challenge to Iran’s clerical leadership in years.
Women have played a prominent role, waving and burning headscarves. High school girls have also taken part.
The chief justice of Alborz province where Esmaeilzadeh died said a preliminary investigation showed her death was caused by suicide from a fall from the roof of a five-story building, the semi-official ISNA news agency said.
Chief justice Hossein Fazeli Herikandi said claims in opposition media about her death were “lies.” “Based on her mother’s account, Esmaeilzadeh had a history of suicide attempts,” he said. Police received a report of her death on Sept. 24, he said.
Reuters could not reach her family for comment.
Amnesty International, in a Sept. 30 report, said she was one of at least 52 people killed by security forces between Sept. 19 and Sept. 25, saying Esmaeilzadeh “died after being severely beaten in the head with batons.”
A video showing Esmaeilzadeh smiling and listening to music has been viewed around 147,000 times on the widely-followed 1500tasvir Twitter account.
Amini was arrested on Sept. 13 in Tehran for “inappropriate attire.” The authorities have said she suffered a heart attack after being taken to a station to be “educated.”
Her family have denied she had any heart problems. Her father has said she had bruises on her legs, and holds police responsible for her death.
The government has ordered an investigation.
Earlier this week, state media said a judicial case had been opened into Shakarami’s death, citing officials claiming it had nothing to do with the unrest, and that she had fallen off a roof and her body contained no bullet wounds. Activists have said she was killed in Tehran while demonstrating.


Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera
Updated 32 min 46 sec ago

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera
  • News comes almost a month after an outbreak of the illness in neighboring war-torn Syria
  • A cholera infection is caused by consuming food or water infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s health minister said on Friday that authorities are inspecting suspected cases of cholera, less than a day after the cash-strapped country confirmed its first case of the illness since 1993.
The news came almost a month after an outbreak of the illness in neighboring war-torn Syria.
Firas Abiad, Lebanon’s caretaker health minister, said in a press conference that the first case was a middle-aged Syrian refugee man living in the impoverished northern province of Akkar, and confirmed a second case in the area.
“There are several other suspected cases,” Abiad said. “Cholera is an illness that is easily transmissible.”
The developments take place as Lebanon's economy continues to spiral, plunging three-quarters of its population into poverty. Rampant power cuts, water shortages, and skyrocketing inflation have deteriorated living conditions for millions.
The Lebanese health minister added that the authorities have been working with the United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organization for weeks to ensure the cash-strapped country can respond to a possible outbreak, and expand testing capacities at hospitals and labs.
“We're making sure that there is safe water and a good sewage system,” Abiad said.
According to the WHO, a cholera infection is caused by consuming food or water infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria, and while most cases are mild to moderate, not treating the illness could lead to death.
About 1 million Syrian refugees who fled their country’s civil war reside in neighboring Lebanon. Most live in extreme poverty in tented settlements or in overcrowded apartments.
Poverty has also deepened for many Lebanese, with many families often rationing water, unable to afford private water tanks for drinking and domestic use.
The health minister said Lebanon has secured the necessary equipment and medicines to treat patients.
Richard Brennan, Regional Emergency Director of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region told The Associated Press Thursday that the organization has also been coordinating with other countries neighboring Syria to help respond to a possible outbreak.
However, he said vaccines are in short supply due to global demand.
The UN and Syria’s Health Ministry have said the source of the outbreak is likely linked to people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates River and using contaminated water to irrigate crops, resulting in food contamination.
Syria’s health services have suffered heavily from its years-long war, while much of the country is short on supplies to sanitize water.
Syrian health officials as of Wednesday documented at least 594 cases of cholera and 39 deaths. Meanwhile, in the rebel-held northwest of the country, health authorities documented 605 suspected cases, dozens of confirmed cases, and at least one death.


Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money
Updated 07 October 2022

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money
  • Banks will continue urgent operations for clients and back-office services for businesses

BEIRUT: Lebanese banks have unanimously decided to close their doors to clients indefinitely after a series of holdups by depositors seeking funds frozen in the banking system because of the country’s financial meltdown, two bankers told Reuters.
Banks will continue urgent operations for clients and back-office services for businesses, the bankers said, but front-office services will remain suspended after more than a dozen holdups in less than a month.
Banks closed for about a week last month in similar circumstances, but reopened at the beginning of October to allow employees to withdraw salaries.
Lebanon’s banks association has previously called on the government to enact formal capital controls to replace the informal controls banks adopted in 2019, but parliament has repeatedly failed to pass the law.
The government has made little progress toward reforms that would unlock an International Monetary Fund bailout to help ease a crisis caused by decades of wasteful spending and corruption.
Now in its third year, Lebanon’s financial meltdown has sunk the currency by more than 90 percent, spread poverty, paralyzed the financial system and frozen depositors out of their savings in Lebanon’s most destabilising crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.