Israel Says Iran Plans Attacks on Israelis in Turkey, Issues Highest Travel Warning to Istanbul

'If you planned a trip to Istanbul, cancel it,' Israeli Foreign Minister Lapid says a day after Turkey exposed an Iranian ring

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid attends a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, last month
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid attends a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, last monthCredit: Reuters

Israel issued on Monday the highest travel warning for Istanbul and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called on Israelis to avoid Turkey, a day after Ankara exposed an Iranian ring that had planned to carry out an attack against Israeli targets.

The Foreign Ministry's travel warning calls on Israeli citizens to avoid Turkey's largest city, and asks those currently in Istanbul to leave as quickly as possible.

The advisory states that there's no specific threat in connecting flights via Istanbul, as long as passengers don't leave the airport.

A mid-level travel warning has been issued for the rest of the country, urging Israelis to avoid non-essential trips.

Minister Lapid cited "a real and immediate danger," speaking shortly before the advisory was published, during a meeting of his Yesh Atid party. The attempted attacks, he added, "are directed at Israelis who go on vacation. They purposely choose Israeli citizens in order to kidnap or murder them. It could happen to anyone."

Officials involved in the process of amending the Israeli travel advisory said the new warning was meant to be released earlier, but talks to coordinate the move with Ankara delayed it.

Lapid thanked the Turkish government for its efforts to protect Israeli citizens, and warned Iran that "Israel's long arm" will reach anyone who tries to harm its nationals.

The Iranian plot, reported on Sunday, was uncovered following an Israeli tip-off to Turkish authorities about a month ago, an Israeli official said.

In recent days, following an uptick of Iranian activity on Turkish soil, Israel's defense establishment has begun dispensing advice on how to stay safe. These include identifying suspicious local residents in hotels or markets trying to make contact or invite Israelis on trips, detecting people who are trailing travelers and behaving such to avoid attracting attention.

Defense officials have also contacted Israelis already in Turkey and asked them to leave, but sources say that some tourists and businesspeople decided to stay there anyway.

In late May, Israel's National Security Council revised its travel warning to Turkey. The updated warning came amid Iranian threats that had followed the assassination of an Iranian Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei. Iranians have attributed the killing of Khodaei, a senior member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, to Israel.

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