Istanbul bombing - AP - May 26, 2011.
Istanbul bombing, May 26, 2011. Photo by AP
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The explosion near an Istanbul market in May, which according to an Italian daily may have been an attempt by Hezbollah and Iran to assassinate an Israeli envoy in Turkey, had been preceded by unusual warnings by Israeli intelligence.

The Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a number of travel warnings, noting that terrorists are planning to target Israelis and Jews abroad. The announcement referred to specific countries, including Turkey, Greece, Malta and Cyprus.

A senior official provided details on both Hezbollah’s attacks outside of Israel, which rely heavily on aid from Iran, as well as the names of those in charge of the latest assassination attempt. Israel fears that Hezbollah is plotting attacks to avenge the death of Imad Mughaniyah, who was killed in Damascus in 2008, as well as the death of two nuclear physicists in Tehran in December 2009, and December 2010, respectively.

Iran and Hezbollah blame Israel for the aforementioned deaths, although Israel does not take responsibility for them. A Haaretz report released earlier this year stated that Israeli security services believe that Iran is likely to seek revenge for the killing of the physicists.

The Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported Monday that the bomb that exploded near an Istanbul market in May, injuring six, may have been an attempt by Hezbollah and Iran to assassinate Israel's consul general to Istanbul.

Until now Turkish authorities had assumed that members of the Kurdish resistance group, the PKK, were behind the booby-trapped scooter that exploded on May 26.

The Italian newspaper, basing its story on "Middle Eastern sources," reported Monday that the target of the attack was Moshe Kimchi, Israel's consul to Istanbul. It said the explosives were placed by three men who have ties to Iranian intelligence. The assassination attempt was meant to be in retaliation for the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran in November 2010, which Iran attributes to the Mossad.

The attempt on Kimchi, the report says, failed because of the security measures protecting the Israeli diplomat and the local security detail.

"It appears that the mission was carried out by three Lebanese members of Hezbollah who entered the country with 'clean' Iranian passports, and received local logistical support," the report states.

According to a Washington-based source quoted by the newspaper, the agents went to Turkey from Beirut using Iranian passports and had the Israeli consul under surveillance for some time. They studied the route taken by Kimche from his home to his office for many days before acting.

According to the report, on the day of the attack, Kimchi's car drove slower than usual and he was uninjured. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. The predominant assumption in Turkey was that it was the work of the PKK, and was intended to affect the upcoming Turkish parliamentary elections.

Intelligence sources in Ankara denied the report in the Italian daily, calling it Israeli propaganda. "Israel releases false information once in a while for disinformation purposes," the source said.