JERUSALEM/NICOSIA (Reuters) -Israel helped Cyprus foil an Iranian-ordered attack against Israelis and Jews on the island, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Sunday, saying such plots were on the rise since the Gaza war erupted.
Netanyahu’s office gave no details of the planned attack but said in the statement on behalf of the Mossad intelligence service that Israel was “troubled” by what it saw as Iranian use of Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus “both for terrorism objectives and as an operational and transit area”.
The breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in northern Cyprus is recognised only by Turkey, which is sharply critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza since Oct. 7.
The internationally recognised government in the south of Cyprus has close relations with Israel.
Turkish Cypriot officials were not immediately available for comment. The Iranian embassy in Nicosia was closed.
Earlier on Sunday, a Greek Cypriot newspaper in Cyprus’s government-controlled south reported authorities had detained two Iranians for questioning over suspected planning of attacks on Israeli citizens living in Cyprus.
The two individuals were believed to be in the early stages of gathering intelligence on potential Israeli targets, the Kathimerini Cyprus newspaper said without citing sources. Those individuals had crossed from the north, it said.
Reuters was unable to verify the details in the newspaper report.
A senior Cyprus official declined to comment, citing policy on issues concerning national security.
It is not the first time that Israel has warned of planned attacks on its citizens in Cyprus. Netanyahu said in June that an Iranian attack against Israeli targets in Cyprus had been thwarted. Tehran denied being behind any alleged plot to attack Israelis in Cyprus.
Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup.
Access between the north and south of Cyprus can be done through a number of crossing points straddling a United Nations-controlled ‘buffer zone’. But the 180km (115 mile) line is also known to be porous, with unauthorised crossings over poorly-guarded terrain.
Barely a 40-minute flight from Israel, both sides of Cyprus are a popular holiday and investment destination for thousands of Israelis.
(Reporting by Dan Williams and Michele KambasEditing by David Goodman and Susan Fenton)