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Mossad chief warns Iran leadership of retaliation, says Israel foiled 27 attacks

In an unusual direct threat, Israel's Mossad chief warned Tehran decision-makers that Israel will come after them should Iran hurt any Jew or Israeli.
International Institute for Counter-Terrorism

Mossad chief David Barnea revealed on Sunday that over the past year, the Israeli spy agency and its allies have foiled 27 attempted attacks by Iran on Israelis and Jewish targets around the world. In an unusually direct threat, Barnea warned that if any Jews or Israelis are hurt in future attacks by Iran or its proxies, Israel will take action against the leadership in Tehran. 

Addressing the annual conference of Reichman University's International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, Barnea said, “The squads that were captured, the weapons that were seized together with them, all had clear targets.” He added that the attacks were attempted “all over the world, in Europe, Africa, the Far East and South America.”

In the past few months, Israel and other Western security agencies have thwarted several Iran-affiliated attacks in the region. In March, Greek police arrested two Pakistani nationals for allegedly planning major terror attacks against a Jewish restaurant and Jewish Chabad house in Athens. In June, Cypriot and Israeli security agencies foiled attacks planned by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on several venues frequented by Israelis in Cyprus. In July, Azeri security forces arrested an Afghan national suspected of planning an attack on Israel’s embassy in Baku. Israel reported that Iran had been involved in planning the attack.

“We are witnessing a significant increase in attempts to harm Jews and Israelis around the world, and we are working even now at this very moment to follow Iranian and proxy squads to prevent them from killing Jews and Israelis around the world,” Barnea noted, warning that Israel will “exact a price from Iran in a different way.”

Pledging to hold top Iranian officials responsible if any Jewish targets or Israel are attacked, Barnea said, “Harming Israelis and Jews in any way — by proxy, by Iranians or by Iranian weapons smuggled into Israel — will lead to activity against the Iranians who sent the terrorists and also against the decision-makers, from the ground operators to the commanders who approved the operation to the highest echelon, and I mean that.” 

In a reference to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Barnea said that the foiled Iranian plots were pursued in accordance with a “political directive by the leader.” He added, “Fortunately for Iran, their terror efforts have been thwarted. Why fortunately for them? Because thus far we have only gotten to the operatives and those who dispatched them.” 

Repeating his warning, Barnea said, "The [Iranian] regime has no more options for deniability or immunity. Our message is clear: We will direct our response to the leadership for this state-sponsored terrorism." 

Barnea addressed Israel’s concerns over talks between the Biden administration and the Iranian government on a renewed nuclear deal, noting, “The current dialogue between Iran and the West does not reflect genuine willingness on the part of Iran to curb its nuclear program. Rather, it demonstrates Iran’s cynical attempt to release money frozen as part of the international sanctions imposed on it while continuing to develop and expand its nuclear capabilities.”

The Mossad head also addressed growing concerns within Israel’s security system that after receiving Iranian drones from Tehran, Russia might now supply Iran with advanced weapons that could threaten Israel. “Our fear is that the Russians will transfer to the Iranians in return what they lack: advanced weapons that will certainly endanger our peace and maybe even our existence here,” he said.

The Mossad warnings come less than a week before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads to the United States for the United Nations' annual summit. Netanyahu will probably address the gathering on Sept. 21. In Netanyahu's past speeches at the UN, he had focused on the Iranian nuclear and terror threats. 

On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant revealed pictures of an Iranian base at an airport in Kilat Jabar in the south of Lebanon, just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Israeli border. Addressing the Reichman conference, Gallant said, "One can see in the pictures Iran’s flag flying on the aircraft’s runways, which the ayatollahs’ regime plans to use against Israel’s citizens." He added, "Put differently, the land is Lebanese, the control is Iranian, the target is Israel."

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