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More deaths of top Iranian scientists raise the stakes in a suspected shadow war with Israel

While nobody has taken responsibility for the killings, Iran blames Israel

Iranian scientist Ayoob Entezari (in circle) and then-Iranian president Hassan Rouhani during a visit to a nuclear facility in Yazd, Iran (Photo: Twitter)

Iran believes that Israel eliminated two of its scientists through targeted killings executed through food poisoning, the New York Times reported earlier this week. 

The scientists, Ayoob Entezari and Kamran Aghamolaei, died within days of each other in the intensive care units of hospitals in two different cities several weeks ago under circumstances that remain unclear. Entezari was employed at a research and development center in Yazd, where he was reportedly working on developing missiles and drones. He developed symptoms of food poisoning after attending a dinner. Aghamolaei, who was a geologist, died after developing food poisoning symptoms in Tehran under circumstances that remain unclear. According to some Israeli media and Iranian news channels based abroad, Aghamolaei worked at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. 

Last month, gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps(IRGC) Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei outside his home. Khodaei was believed to have been involved in targeting Israelis abroad. 

While nobody has taken responsibility for the killings, Iran is blaming the Jewish state. 

Also in May, an engineer was killed and another employee was injured at the Parchin Military Complex, located south of Tehran, which has been linked to Iran’s nuclear research and missile production. The Iranian Defense Ministry said explosions and fires have occurred at Parchin in 2007, 2014 and 2020.

Earlier this month, IRGC Quds Force Col. Ali Esmailzadeh died in a fall from a roof or balcony in what was reported as an accident. Iran International, a Persian-language outlet for Iran’s political opposition abroad, claimed that Esmailzadeh had been killed because it was believed that he had assisted in the assassination of  Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei some days earlier by providing information to the assassins. 

Finally, another two Iranian air force officers from the IRGC – Mohammad Abdous and Ali Kamani, who were both involved in developing weapons for Hezbollah in Lebanon – were killed. In a statement released Sunday, Iranian authorities claimed that Kamani, a member of the IRGC's aerospace unit, had died "as a result of a traffic accident" and "during a mission" in the city of Khomein. Iran International, however, reported that the deaths of the two officers had not been an accident, even though Iran’s Ministry of Defense insisted that the two officers died while on duty and called them “martyrs” without offering any further information.

In November 2020, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the father of the Iranian nuclear weapons program, was assassinated outside Tehran despite being surrounded by numerous armed bodyguards. The Iranian regime quickly blamed the Jewish state for the high-profile killing and vowed revenge. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu neither confirmed nor denied Israel’s involvement in the assassination. 

Israel typically neither confirms nor denies involvement in assassinations of senior Iranian officials. However, Netanyahu explicitly mentioned Fakhrizadeh’s name during a dramatic press conference in 2018 when the Israeli premier revealed to the world that Israeli intelligence had succeeded in penetrating and stealing tons of top-secret Iranian nuclear files from Tehran. Netanyahu described Fakhrizadeh as a central figure in the Iranian nuclear weapons program and urged the world audience to “remember that name.” 

The Iranian regime has, on numerous occasions, attempted to attack Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide. The Israeli government recently urged its citizens to stay away from the Turkish metropolis Istanbul after revealing that Iranian assassins had been dispatched to Turkey to murder Israelis. 

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid urged Israelis to immediately leave Istanbul and Turkey in general. 

“If you are already in Istanbul, return to Israel as soon as possible. If you planned a trip to Istanbul – cancel it. No vacation is worth risking your lives for,” warned Lapid. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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