Turkey said Thursday it thwarted a planned attack against Israeli tourists in Istanbul, and detained eight suspects allegedly working for an Iranian intelligence cell.
Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) revealed the operation on Thursday just before the arrival of Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to Turkey, adding that the eight, who were not all Iranian nationals, were arrested in a raid in three houses in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district last week.
According to reports, Iranians planned to kidnap Israeli diplomats and tourists in Istanbul, including the former Israeli ambassador and his wife who were staying at a hotel in the city.
The agents were disguised as students, while members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards were undercover as businessmen and tourists, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
Turkish news agency İhlas Haber Ajansı said, "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."
Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, had already evacuated the targeted Israelis from their addresses to Tel Aviv on a private plane.
Israeli officials and media began issuing warnings to citizens against traveling to Turkey in the end of May, citing suspected killing or abduction plots by Iran, which has vowed to avenge the May 22 assassination of a Revolutionary Guards colonel in Tehran that it blamed on Israeli agents.