Fox News Flash top headlines for December 19
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- Cyprus, in a joint operation with Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, has reportedly thwarted an Iranian plot to target and kill Israeli businessmen.
- Two Iranian asylum-seekers, reportedly in contact with Tehran’s Revolutionary Guard, were arrested last month.
- The men were detained just before a hit squad was believed to arrive in Cyprus to execute the scheme.
Cyprus has disrupted an alleged Iranian plot to target Israeli businessmen with the arrest of two Iranian asylum-seekers who were in contact with another Iranian associated with the Revolutionary Guard, a Cypriot official said Tuesday.
The official told The Associated Press the two Iranian men have been in police custody since Nov. 3 and procedures were underway to deport them.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s not allowed to speak publicly about national security matters, said the suspects’ detention was the culmination of a joint operation with Israel’s Mossad security service.
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Cypriot security services had been surveilling the two Iranian men for several weeks and detained them just before what authorities believe would have been the arrival of a squad to carry out killings, the official said. The targeted individuals were primarily Israeli businessmen, the official said.
Cypriot authorities said the suspects’ Iranian handler moved in and out of Cyprus through the ethnically divided island nation’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and would cross a U.N.-controlled buffer zone into the internationally recognize south to establish contact with the two. His identity and whereabouts were not revealed but the official said he worked for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard.
Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The Cypriot government doesn’t exercise effective control in the northern third, which is only recognized by Turkey.
The Cypriot flag flies in Nicosia, Cyprus, Saturday, October 1, 2022. (Photo by Danil Shamkin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Last week, an announcement by the Israeli prime minister’s office on behalf of the Mossad said Iran’s use of Cyprus’ breakaway north for “terrorist purposes” and as an “area of activity and transit to attack Israeli and Jewish targets constitutes a disturbing issue.”
Cypriot officials say the collaboration with security and intelligence agencies in countries in the region, Europe and beyond have enabled Cypriot authorities to effectively identify and counter such threats.
At the same time, the Cypriot official said Cyprus wants to maintain friendly relations will all neighboring countries and doesn’t seek to be implicated in any regional conflicts.
In a statement, Turkish Cypriot authorities condemned the Israeli announcement as a “baseless and unfounded allegation” that was made to divert the international community’s attention away from the “inhuman attacks” Israel is perpetrating against Palestinian civilians and Gaza and the West Bank.
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The Iranian government did not immediately respond to AP calls for comment.
This is the third such alleged Iranian plot to target Israelis in Cyprus in more than a year. In July, Cyprus authorities broke up an alleged plot involving an Iranian-backed hit squad that planned to kill Israelis and other Jews.
Israel considers Iran its greatest enemy, citing the Iranian government’s calls for Israel’s destruction and support for hostile militant groups. It also accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear bomb — a claim that Iran denies.
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An Azeri man holding a Russian passport is on trial in Cyprus, a close Israeli ally, on suspicion that he planned to carry out the contract killings of Israelis living in Cyprus.