Defense Officials Warn of Imminent Iranian Attack Against Israelis in Turkey

Officials warn of an attempt by an Iranian cell to infiltrate an Istanbul hotel in which Israelis are staying in order to kidnap or kill them, and warns Israelis not to open their hotel doors to unfamiliar people

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
People shop at a open market in Istanbul, Turkey, last week.
People shop at a open market in Istanbul, Turkey, last week.Credit: DILARA SENKAYA/Reuters
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israeli defense officials believe that an Iranian attack on Israelis in Istanbul is underway, and may occur in the coming hours.

As terror cells begin to despair at Turkey and Israel's recent thwarting of their plans to harm Israelis in the country, Israel's defense establishment believes that these terror cells may go to great lengths to hurt Israelis.

>> Why Turkey became the preferred location for Iranian revenge on Israel

Israel fears that Turkish security forces will have a difficult time foiling terror attacks due to the large number of Israelis in the country – some 2,000 – and the fact that several cells are working to carry out these attacks at the same time.

On Friday afternoon, heads of the defense establishment, including the Mossad chief and the head of the National Security Council, held a meeting to assess the threat to Israelis in Turkey. One of the scenarios they are preparing for is an attempt by members of an Iranian cell to infiltrate an Istanbul hotel in which Israelis are staying in order to kidnap or kill them.

Israel is therefore warning its citizens in the city not to open their hotel room doors to unfamiliar people. The security officials also discussed the possibility of Israelis being approached by people posing as locals – for example, tour guides – to kidnap them.

Although Israeli and Turkish intelligence have managed to thwart the Istanbul-based cell's plots, its members have yet to be arrested and are still in the city. Members of other Iranian cells were arrested earlier this week, following cooperation between Israeli and Turkish security agencies, but they warned that additional groups were still active.

On Monday, Israel issued the highest travel warning for Istanbul and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called on Israelis to avoid Turkey. Those currently in Istanbul were encouraged to leave as quickly as possible. A mid-level travel warning has been issued for the rest of the country, urging Israelis to avoid non-essential trips.

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.

Since the incident, senior Iranian officials have threatened to carry out retaliatory actions against Israel – both within Israeli territory and abroad.

The figure behind these attempts is Hossein Taeb, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp's intelligence service. Taeb is currently under pressure within the organization due to his failures to prevent a series of attacks within Iran in past weeks.

This is a breaking news story. More details soon.

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