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Israel views Cyprus safe destination despite plot

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Israel’s National Security Council has assured that Cyprus remains a safe destination for thousands of Israeli tourists this summer after authorities thwarted a recent terror plot.

A statement was made by an Israeli National Security Council representative to the daily newspaper Israel Hayom following reports that Cyprus intelligence – assisted by Mossad and the US – prevented a terrorist attack against Israeli targets on the island.

According to figures from Israeli tour operators, from the beginning of 2023 until June, 160,000 Israeli citizens travelled to Cyprus.

This number represents 60% of Israeli tourists who travelled abroad throughout 2022.

In 2023 a record number of arrivals by Israelis to the island is expected, a number set to exceed 300,000.

The Israel Hayom reports that this number will bring arrivals from Israel to second place after arrivals from Britain, surpassing arrivals from Germany, Poland and Greece.

It cites figures from a total of nine Israeli and foreign airlines that connect the airports of Cyprus with the international airports of Tel Aviv and Haifa.

To respond to greater demand, during July-August, the total number of flights between Israel and Cyprus will exceed 100 per week.

The targets of an alleged Iranian-planned attack in Cyprus included an Israeli real estate businessman and a Chabad House, as well as hotels and entertainment venues frequented by Israeli tourists, Israeli media reported.

Phileleftheros daily reported the suspected terror plot on Sunday, believed to be linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian army.

It said the plot was thwarted by Cypriot intelligence services, in cooperation with other foreign agencies, said to be from Israel and the US.

The suspected attackers in the foiled plot were using the Turkish-occupied north as a staging post for the potential attack, and Cypriot intelligence services had closely followed the cell for months.

Israel formally acknowledged on Sunday that an Iranian-planned terror attack targeting Israeli and Jewish targets in Cyprus was foiled recently.

It warned that its operatives would continue thwarting “Iranian terrorism wherever it raises its head,” including in Iran.

The Prime Minister’s Office said: “The State of Israel operates using a wide variety of methods in every place to protect Jews and Israelis and will continue to act to destroy Iranian terrorism wherever it raises its head, including on Iranian soil.”

Cypriot authorities have refused to comment on issues of “national security”.

Israel’s National Security Council warned earlier this year that Cyprus and Greece are countries where Iran is likely to target Jews and Israelis.

In March, Greek police arrested two Pakistani nationals allegedly planning mass-casualty terrorist attacks on behalf of Iran against Israeli and Jewish targets in Greece.

The Mossad, which aided the Greek investigation, said in a statement that the two were part of an Iranian terror network.

In October 2021, Israel said an Iranian plot against Israeli businesspeople in Cyprus had been foiled.

A hired killer of Azeri origin was arrested for possessing a gun after arriving in Cyprus on a flight from Russia.

Iran has denied the accusations.