Iran tried to kill Israeli businessman in Cyprus - Bennett spokesman

"This was not a criminal incident, and businessman Teddy Sagi was not the target of the attack," said the spokesman.

 Pro-Palestinian protestors shouts logans during a demonstration in Eleftheria square, following a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Nicosia, Cyprus May 16, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/YIANNIS KOURTOGLOU)
Pro-Palestinian protestors shouts logans during a demonstration in Eleftheria square, following a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Nicosia, Cyprus May 16, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/YIANNIS KOURTOGLOU)

Iran continued to deny accusations that it plotted to attack Israelis in Cyprus, days after Israel said that Iran was behind plans for an act of terror orchestrated by Tehran against Israeli businesspeople.

According to Fars News Agency's International Group, the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Cyprus responded to the latest accusation of the “Zionists against Iran.”   "This [Israeli] regime always makes such baseless accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the Iranian news agency said. “Zionist officials, who have repeatedly tried to create an atmosphere against the Islamic Republic of Iran without any documents.”

“The Zionist regime has made such accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran, while the South Cypriot media reported on Sunday this week that a Russian-Azerbaijani citizen had entered the Cypriot capital to assassinate Zionist billionaire Teddy Sagi, and suggested that the plot of the murder of this Zionist businessman had a commercial aspect and financial disputes with Russian partners,” Iran’s Fars News reported. 

Sagi, who made his fortune running gambling apps and owns London’s Cameden Market, was tipped off by the Israeli authorities – likely the Mossad – that assassins were after him, and he escaped Cyprus, where he lives, to Israel earlier this week.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s spokesman Matan Sidi said on Monday the attempted murder was an Iranian terrorist attack, and that the assassin was targeting Israeli businessmen, not Sagi specifically.

 An Iranian protester holds the picture of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as she attends an anti US demonstration, marking the 40th anniversary of the US embassy takeover, near the old US embassy in Tehran, Iran, November 4, 2019.  (credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS) An Iranian protester holds the picture of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as she attends an anti US demonstration, marking the 40th anniversary of the US embassy takeover, near the old US embassy in Tehran, Iran, November 4, 2019. (credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

The hitman alleged to have been hired by Iran to kill Israeli businessmen reportedly has not been cooperating with the authorities.

The 38-year-old Azreri man, who holds a Russian passport, would not answer any of the police’s questions other than to tell them where he rented two cars in Ayia Napa in Cyprus, one of which had a loaded pistol with a silencer inside it, the Philenews site reported.

Like the Prime Minister’s Office, Philenews reported that Cypriot police do not think the suspect’s target was Sagi, but other senior executives in Sagi’s company on the EU member state island.

However, Cyprus police has not confirmed that Iran was behind the attack.

The Azeri-Russian hitman intended to hit his target and then escape to Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus through a pedestrian crossing, on an electric scooter. He reportedly did not arouse suspicion when he appeared on surveillance cameras.

No residence was found for the assassin in Cyprus, and the authorities assume he was living in the north. They plan to search his phone data to see if he was communicating with associates in the north, and to chart his recent whereabouts.

Bennett announced on Monday that the Mossad embarked on an operation last month to find more information about Israel Air Force pilot Ron Arad, who was captured after his plane crashed in 1986. Defense sources have said that no new information was found.

London-based Arabic paper Rai al-Youm reported that, as part of the operation, Israel kidnapped an Iranian general in Syria, taking him to Africa, and then releasing him. The report speculated that the attempted terror attack in Cyprus was retaliation for the abduction.

Iran has been complaining recently about Israel-Azerbaijan relations. It has held military drills near the Azerbaijan border. Iran has accused Baku of hosting “Zionists.” This is part of Iran’s concerns about Israel’s role across the region.