Iranian Cells Arrested for Targeting Israelis in Turkey in Recent Days

Israel has issued the highest travel warning for Istanbul, with FM Lapid calling on Israelis to avoid visiting Turkey after Ankara exposed an Iranian ring planning to carry out attacks against Israelis

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Two Turkish riot police officers walk in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, on Tuesday.
Two Turkish riot police officers walk in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, on Tuesday.Credit: YASIN AKGUL - AFP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Members of Iranian cells targeting Israelis in Turkey have been arrested in recent days, with Israeli sources saying Turkish and Israeli security agencies worked together to thwart the groups.

Other Iranian cells, however, are still in action, the sources say.

Turkish media outlets reported this week that Turkey exposed an Iranian ring that had planned to carry out attacks against Israelis visiting the country. Israel later issued the highest travel warning for Istanbul and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called on Israelis to avoid Turkey.

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. Israelis were requested to put current plans to travel to Turkey on hold until further notice.

Furthermore, Israel's National Security Council issued an unusual warning on Thursday, calling on Israelis to leave Turkey as soon as possible.

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.

Lapid expressed his discontent with Israelis continuing to fly to Istanbul despite the warnings. "The warnings are not symbolic," he said. "They are linked to Iran. It is a real threat. If someone is abducted or killed in Istanbul, I don’t think their family will be tolerant of his decision to ignore the warning."

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