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Iran executes 4 convicted of plotting with Israeli intelligence to attack defense factory, state media say

Breaking down rising tension in Middle East
Breaking down rising conflicts in the Middle East 06:43

Tehran, Iran — Iran executed on Monday four men convicted of planning sabotage and having alleged links with Israel's Mossad secret service, state media reported. The official IRNA news agency said the men were convicted of planning to target a factory in 2022 belonging to Iran's defense ministry and involved in missile and defense equipment in the central city of Isfahan. The operation was allegedly engineered by Mossad and the four were trained by the Israeli agency in an African country before entering Iran, it said.

The four were identified as Iranian nationals: Mohammad Faramarzi, Mohsen Mazloum, Vafa Azarbar and Pejman Fatehi. The execution was carried out after the country's Supreme Court upheld their death sentences, handed down by another court in September.

The report did not say how the death sentences were carried out, but in Iran it's usually by hanging.

In 2022, Iran said its intelligence agents had dismantled a group linked to Mossad that had allegedly planned terror operations inside Iran, arresting all members of the group and confiscating a large amount of weapons and explosives.

Ebrahim Raisi, the President of Iran, delivers a speech at a rally with the slogan "Anti-Zionism in support of Gaza" emblazoned behind him, in Tehran, Iran, Oct. 18, 2023. HOSSEIN BERIS/Middle East Images/AFP/Getty

Iran from time to time reports on arrests, trials and executions of its nationals for spying for Mossad, Britain's MI6, the CIA and other Western intelligence services.

Late last month, Iran executed four people — three men and a woman — and sentenced several others to prison for having alleged links with Israel's Mossad security service, local media reported. Earlier in December, another man was executed on charges of releasing classified information to Mossad.

Iran and Israel have accused each other of spying and waging a shadow war for years. Israel views Iran as its greatest threat and has repeatedly threatened to take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran denies it is seeking such weapons and has vowed a harsh response to any aggression.

In 2020, Iran executed a man convicted of leaking information to the United States and Israel about a prominent Islamic Revolutionary Guard general, Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in January that year.

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Iran does not recognize Israel and supports anti-Israeli militant groups across the region, including the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip for decades. Hamas, long designated a terrorist group by the U.S., Israel and the European Union, sparked the current war with Israel by launching its brutal Oct. 7 terror attack on the country. Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas in response.

Iran also backs a number of smaller militias across the Middle East, including factions in Syria and Iraq that have carried out repeated attacks targeting U.S. military bases and outposts in the region.

Those attacks have increased significantly since Israel launched its military operations in Gaza against Hamas. President Biden vowed on Sunday to retaliate for a rare deadly strike that hit a small U.S. base on the Jordanian side of the Syrian border over the weekend. While most of the attacks cause little to no significant damage, the drone strike over the weekend killed three U.S. service members and left dozens more wounded.

3 American troops killed in drone attack on base in Jordan 01:53

Iran does not deny ideologically supporting the militias around the region, but it routinely denies any role in or responsibility for the attacks they carry out.  

Last month, a high-ranking Iranian general of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard was killed by an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria.

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