Greece dismantles a network that planned to target Israelis.. Tel Aviv accuses Tehran
Greek police announced today, Wednesday, that they had dismantled a “terrorist network” that was planning to launch “strikes” in Greece and arrested two Pakistanis who wanted to strike Israeli targets in Athens.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office accused Tehran of being behind this plan, stressing that it is “a new attempt by Iran to encourage terrorism against Israeli and Jewish targets abroad.”
“The investigation revealed that the Greek infrastructure was part of a wide Iranian network operating from Iran towards several countries,” the office said in a statement.
For her part, Greek police spokeswoman Constantina Demoglidou told AFP that “the mastermind (of this cell) is a Pakistani residing in a country outside Europe.”
According to police sources, who refused to reveal his name, this Pakistani resides in Iran, specifically in Tehran.
Demogledou said that the two men who were arrested, aged 29 and 27, were “two Pakistanis who were residing irregularly in Greece.”
She added that they were targeting a building for the Jewish community in the center of Athens, frequented by Israelis, and which includes “a synagogue and a Jewish restaurant.”
It is one of the very few Jewish restaurants in the Greek capital, which has also included, since 2001, a center for the Jewish community.
A police statement earlier reported the dismantling of a “terrorist network”.
The two mobile phones of the two arrested men allowed the investigators to seize conversations, video tapes and drawings of places where these Jewish targets were meeting, the same source added.
“Following coordinated actions of the Greek police and the National Intelligence Service, a terrorist network that was planning from abroad to launch strikes against carefully selected targets on Greek soil was dismantled,” the police said in a statement.
She added that the detainees “chose their target, and began exploring the area and planning the attack,” noting that they “received final instructions” for implementation.
The two suspects were referred to the Public Prosecution Office in Athens, which launched criminal prosecutions for the crime of “forming and belonging to a terrorist group,” a charge that carries a penalty of between ten years and life imprisonment under the Greek anti-terrorism law, according to a judicial source.
The Greek judiciary also launched criminal prosecutions “against an unknown person” targeting the supposed leader of this network residing in Tehran, according to the same source.
According to the police, the arrested wanted to “undermine the sense of safety in the country (…) and its institutions” and to deal a blow to its “international relations” at the same time.
And Greece, which includes a Jewish community of about five thousand people, maintains good relations with Israel and has not witnessed armed attacks in the past years.
“This (dismantling) operation confirms once again that the country’s security authorities maintain a very high level of readiness for all Greeks and all visitors to our country,” Citizens Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos said in a statement.
Greece, which is traditionally considered a friend of the Arab countries, began rapprochement with the Israeli occupation more than a decade ago.
Several cooperation agreements were signed between the two countries, especially in the military and security fields, as well as in the field of energy.
Three years ago, Greece, Israel and Cyprus signed an agreement in Athens on the EastMed gas pipeline, a project described by the three countries as “important”, as the exploration of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean raises tension with neighboring Turkey.
The conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which has been in power for four years, has made the country’s “security” its top priority by pursuing a strict immigration policy and closing the country’s borders with the help of the European border control agency (Frontex).
Mitsotakis announced earlier on Tuesday that the legislative elections in Greece will be held on May 21. “The country and the citizens need clear horizons,” he said during the cabinet meeting. “The elections will be held on May 21.”
Mitsotakis, whose term ends in July, is seeking a new term.
The leader of the right-wing “New Democracy” party, which has been in power since 2019, is facing a wave of anger across the country since the accident of a passenger train collided with a freight train on February 28, which revealed serious imbalances in the railway system.