Israel Warns Against Travel to Turkey, Raises Alert Level After Iranian Colonel Killing

Jerusalem revises its travel warning to Turkey and say 'a real threat to citizens is posed,' following reports accusing Israel of assassinating an Iranian colonel ■ Iran Revolutionary Guards general vows to avenge the killing of Hassan Sayyad Khodaei

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
A picture of slain Iranian colonel seen at his funeral ceremony, in Tehran, Iran, last week.
A picture of slain Iranian colonel seen at his funeral ceremony, in Tehran, Iran, last week.Credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/ REUTERS
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel has advised its citizens against traveling to Turkey and raised its level of preparedness and in light of Iranian threats in response to the assassination of an Iranian colonel in Tehran.

The Iranians have attributed the killing of Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, a senior member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, to Israel. Since the incident, senior Iranian officials have threatened to carry out retaliatory actions against Israel – both within Israeli territory and abroad. Iranian General Hossein Salami accused "Zionists" of the assassination of Khodaei and vowed to avenge it during a visit to Khodaei's family, Tasnim news agency reported.

The security establishment has prepared for a number of possible scenarios. One possibility is that Iran could try and harm Israeli officials operating abroad, such as ambassadors, security personnel, or noted businesspeople.

Various Israeli embassies around the world have been warned and asked to raise their level of preparedness ahead of possible attempts to harm embassy staff or senior officials who visit those countries. The security establishment is investigating possible points of entrance for Iranian actors, and are establishing direct connections between security officials in Israel and their counterparts abroad in countries where there is a suspicion that hostile actors could arrive.

The most significant area of concern at present is Turkey. According to Israeli intelligence assessments, Iran is attempting to carry out retaliatory action targeting Israeli officials, Jewish community members, tourists and sites that are associated with the Jewish community, such as synagogues, in Turkey.

Police outside the Israeli embassy in Ankara, Turkey, in 2011.Credit: Burhan Ozbilici / AP

The National Security Council revised its travel warning to Israeli citizens in Turkey Monday following accusations and reports attributing the assassination of an Iranian colonel to Israel.

The council said that fear of Iranian plots to harm Israelis "intensified after Israel was accused of the death of an Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer."

In a statement, the agency added that "a real threat to Israelis is posed in the Turkish arena as well as countries which share a border with Iran." Turkey was already categorized as a high-risk country by Israel.

A second possibility is that Iran could attempt to carry out a military response in Israeli territory. Israel has considered a scenario in which Iran operates through proxies in Lebanon, Syria or Jordan to target Israeli troops stationed near the border. Additional possibilities include limited rocket or missile fire toward Israeli targets, the use of suicide drones, or the deployment of cruise missiles toward Israeli targets, including those at sea.

The Israeli Air Force has been widely deployed in different areas. Iron Dome missile defense systems have been deployed across Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel is working with other Gulf countries, some of which are signatories of the Abraham Accords, in order to expand Israeli intelligence capabilities in the case that the Iranian threat is actualized.

The security establishment has been working over the past year to bolster security coordination with other countries in the region, in order to give Israel a better picture of the Iranian threats.

Last week, Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, a senior member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force was assassinated in Tehran. According to a report, Khodaei "was the mastermind" behind a 2012 car bombing that targeted an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi which seriously injured his wife.

The report also states that Khodaei was involved in a botched operation in Thailand that targeted Israeli diplomats. After the attack, three agents were arrested, including one who lost his legs in an explosion.

The New York Times reported that Israel informed American officials of the assassination, which was meant as a warning to Iran to stop the operations of an elite group within the Iranian Quds Force, which Col. Khodaei was the deputy commander of.

Iran has never acknowledged the existence of unit 840, that is tasked with carrying out attacks against foreigners aboard, including Israeli officials and civilians, according to Israeli officials.

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