Report: Iranian plot on Israeli rabbis foiled in Azerbaijan

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JERUSALEM — Azerbaijan officials said they foiled an Iranian plot to kill two Israeli rabbis serving at a Jewish school in the capital, Baku, last week, the Tel Aviv daily newspaper Ha’aretz reported Tuesday.

Three local Azeri men were arrested, and were said to have been armed with sniper rifles, pistols with silencers and explosives that had been smuggled across the border from Iran, according to the newspaper.

Ha’aretz reported that the plot was intended to be revenge for the killings of four Iranian nuclear scientists over the past two years that Iran has attributed to Israel’s Mossad spy agency. The most recent killing occurred earlier this month.

The intended victims in Baku were identified as Rabbi Shneor Segal, principal of the Or Avner Jewish School in the city, and Rabbi Matti Lewis. Both rabbis are members of the Chabad movement, a branch of Orthodox Judaism that focuses on understanding the mystical.

Rabbi Segal said that Azeri security forces, apparently alerted by the Mossad, had been keeping the school under covert surveillance for some time before the three suspects were arrested, the paper reported.

Security forces in Baku in 2009 arrested two operatives of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah who had planned to detonate car bombs around a high-rise building where the Israeli Embassy had offices.

That plot was widely seen as attempted revenge for the 2008 killing of the Islamist group’s top military commander, Imad Mughniyah, in Damascus, Syria — a slaying also attributed to Mossad.

Iran has provided material, financial and training support for Hezbollah militants, who call for Israel’s destruction.

Israel’s top military leader Tuesday publicly warned Hezbollah against attacking Israeli and Jewish targets abroad, just hours before the Baku plot was made public in Israel.

“We are witness to efforts by Hezbollah and other hostile elements to perpetrate a brutal terror attack far from Israel,” said Benny Gants, chief of staff of Israel’s armed forces. “I recommend that nobody test our resolve.”

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