Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced that the country’s government has raised its terrorism alert for the Turkish city of Istanbul to the highest level, after Israeli officials claimed to have averted numerous Iranian attack threats targeting Jewish visitors.
The minister cited “a series of attempts at Iranian terrorist attacks against Israelis who went on vacation in Istanbul” in recent weeks as the reason for a new travel alert.
“We are calling on Israelis not to fly to Istanbul, and if you have no vital need, do not fly to Turkey. If you are already in Istanbul, return to Israel as soon as possible… No vacation is worth your life,” Lapid said, “given the continued threat and Iranian intentions to hurt Israelis.”
Yair Lapid provided no details about the alleged Iranian threats, saying only that they planned to “kidnap or murder” Israeli visitors.
Israeli citizens were also urged to avoid any non-essential travel to the rest of Turkey.
The minister’s announcement followed the decision by Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau to up the danger level for Istanbul to the top of the chart, adding the Turkish city to Afghanistan and Yemen.
Local media reported that few Israeli citizens visiting Istanbul were “whisked away” by Israeli security agents last week as “Iranian assassins waited at the hotel”.
A sharp surge of flights carrying thousands of passengers from Turkey to Israel was reported yesterday.
According to the reports, Israeli officials are not planning to launch a rescue operation, despite the fact that some Israelis wished to remain in the city despite the warnings, though over 100 Israeli citizens residing in Turkey were reportedly contacted by counter-terrorism officials and asked to return home.
Current raised alarm over Istanbul safety follows previous warnings from Israel’s National Security Council, which declared last month that “Iranian terrorist operatives” were currently in Turkey and presented a threat to Israeli citizens in the country.