'Istanbul bombing was Hezbollah strike on Israeli envoy'

May explosion attributed to PKK was meant to be retaliation for Mossad's alleged hit on Iranian nuclear physicist, Italian newspaper reports.

July 18, 2011 15:40
2 minute read.
Hezbollah rocket launcher

Hezbollah rocket launcher 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

A bomb in Istanbul that injured eight people in May was not organized by the Kurdish militant group PKK but was an attempt by Hezbollah to kill Israel’s consul- general in the city, an Italian newspaper reported Monday.

Citing Washington sources, the leading daily Corriere della Sera reported the May 26 bomb in Istanbul’s busy Etiler district was aimed at Moshe Kamhi, Israel’s consul-general to Istanbul, in retaliation for the 2010 assassination of Iranian nuclear physicist Masoud Alimohammadi in Tehran. Iran blamed the strike on the US and Israel, a charge the US State Department dismissed as “absurd.”

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After tracing the Istanbul attack to the PKK, Turkey’s national intelligence organization reportedly revised its conclusion to instead incriminate Hezbollah, acting at the behest of its sponsor Iran.

According to the Italian report, members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Al-Quds Force surveilled the area, carefully noting Kamhi’s daily routine, then contracted Lebanese members of Hezbollah to carry out the attack.

The plan failed, the report said, due to countermeasures taken by the Israeli diplomat and by Turkish counter-terrorism services.

No one claimed responsibility for the May attack, but Turkish officials were quick to suggest the PKK was attempting to stir up chaos ahead of the country’s June 12 elections. The movement, an acronym for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the EU.

Israel denied knowledge of the Hezbollah plot, and Turkish intelligence sources summarily rejected the report.

“Israel carries out similar disinformation campaigns through newspapers from time to time,”one source said, Turkey’s Hurriyet daily reported.

Kamhi, born and raised in Istanbul and a native Turkish speaker, took his current position in 2009. He previously worked at a number of diplomatic postings including a stint at the Israeli consulate in Ankara, where he met his future wife, a non- Jewish Turkish woman.

“I am an Israeli who was born in Istanbul and raised through Turkish culture. I was molded inside Turkish civilization,” he told Hurriyet in a 2009 interview.

“My grandfather was born in Skopje [now in Macedonia] and my grandmother was from Pristina [Kosovo].

My mother’s side of the family took a shortcut – they came directly to Istanbul from Spain and lived in Haskoy for 500 years,” he said, referring to a heavily Jewish neighborhood in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district.

Kamhi himself grew up in nearby Kasimpasa, close to the childhood home of Turkey’s current prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Kamhi and Erdogan are the same age, 57, but attended different schools and never met as youth. On Erdogan’s first visit to Israel in 2005, Kamhi served as translator.

“I introduced myself and we spoke about Kasimpasa,” Kamhi told Hurriyet.

Ma’ariv reported Sunday that Erdogan would visit Gaza over the next two weeks for meetings with officials of the Hamas government. The Turkish premier has been a strident critic of Israel’s 2008-09 Gaza War, its closure of the territory to non-essential goods since Hamas seized power and its raid last year of a Gazabound flotilla that resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens.

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