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Report: Israel Directly Warns 100 of its Citizens to Leave Turkey Due to Iran Threat

Telephoned alerts come after National Security Council publishes dire travel advisory, as Israel braces for Tehran’s retaliation to assassination of senior IRGC officer.
Istanbul's skyline, with the iconic Galata Tower, January 29, 2021. (AP Photo/ Emrah Gurel)
Istanbul’s skyline, with the iconic Galata Tower, January 29, 2021. (AP Photo/ Emrah Gurel)

Israeli security officials called and directly warned more than 100 Israeli citizens in Turkey that they are in Iran’s crosshairs, and asked them to return, according to a television report Monday.

Earlier in the day, Israel’s National Security Council issued a public travel warning for Turkey, saying there was a concrete threat to Israelis by “Iranian terrorist operatives” there and in nearby countries.

According to the unsourced report on Channel 12 news, the threat of Iran attacking Israelis in Turkey is “concrete and immediate… Evidently, there is [an Iranian] infrastructure that has planned to act right now.”

The Mossad has thwarted recent Iranian efforts to target senior Israeli figures and Israeli businesspeople around the world, the report said, and, after those failures, Iran is now widening its target to ordinary Israelis in Turkey. A Kan TV report also said Israel fears that Iran is about to target ordinary Israeli tourists there.

The alleged Iranian plot is apparently a response to the assassination of a senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps last week, which Iran attributed to Israel.

“For several weeks now, and even more so since Iran blamed Israel for the death of the Revolutionary Guards officer last week, there has been growing concern in the defense establishment about Iranian attempts to harm Israeli targets around the world,” a statement from the National Security Council said Monday.

Despite the highly irregular recent warnings, the travel advisory for Turkey has remained at its same level, three of four, a “moderate threat,” with recommendations to avoid visiting the country for nonessential reasons. At level four, “high threat,” Israelis are explicitly told not to visit the country and to leave if they are already there. Countries with this warning include Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Iran.

According to the NSC, in recent weeks there have been “a number of attempts” by Iranian operatives to attack Israeli businessmen and consular staff, but they were thwarted.

Since the Iranians did not succeed with those efforts, they were widening the target to ordinary Israelis in Turkey, Channel 12 reported.

Israel’s irregular travel warnings against Turkey have apparently rankled Ankara, but Turkish authorities hope that the public outing of Iran’s intentions along with increased efforts to thwart the attacks would allow the threat to pass more quickly.

Former national security adviser Giora Eiland told Channel 12 news earlier in the day that the repeated public warnings likely indicated that Israeli security services were aware of a specific Iranian plot, rather than acting out of more general assessments.

The National Security Council recommended that all Israelis who are in Turkey avoid contact with strangers; refrain from giving out personal details, particularly about military service; make sure they have the phone numbers of Israeli legations and emergency services; and not publicly display signs that they are Israeli.

“Israeli citizens must remain vigilant and adhere to the necessary precautions when traveling to one of these countries,” it said.

Iranian authorities have yet to pin down any suspects in Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei’s killing, even though the incident took place in the heart of one of the most secure areas in Tehran — Mohahedin-e Eslam Street, home to other senior officials in the IRGC and its elite Quds Force.

Israel, which has not officially commented on the incident, reportedly raised the security alert level at its embassies and consulates around the world, fearing a retaliatory Iranian attack.

An unnamed intelligence official told the New York Times last week that Israel told US officials it was behind the assassination. A senior Israeli MK denied this.

Khodaei’s assassination was the most high-profile killing inside Iran since the November 2020 killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

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