Senior political and security officials in Israel have warned that there were “concrete” Iranian threats to Israelis in Istanbul city and urged all citizens to leave Turkey immediately.
The warning came following unverified reports which said that Israeli and Turkish security agencies thwarted several attacks on Israelis in Turkey. The alleged attacks were reportedly planned by a network of Iranian operatives.
In the woke of these reports, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid urged all Israeli citizens in Turkey to leave “as soon as possible”.
“If you are already in Istanbul, return to Israel as soon as possible,” Lapid said in a public warning on June 13.
Israeli officials made a more serious warning on June 17, saying that they believed that Iran has already ordered cells made up of Iranians and locals in Turkey to target Israelis in any place they could over the weekend, especially in Istanbul.
The officials said that any Israeli could be targeted in any place, including hotels, restaurants and other entertainment places. Those who could not leave were told to lock themselves up in their hotel rooms and to hide their Israeli identity as much as they could.
According to Israel’s Channel 12, Israeli agents are currently in Turkey working with their Turkish counterparts to thwart the alleged Iranian plot.
“Being in Istanbul right now [for an Israeli] is akin to playing Russian roulette, tempting fate. If we could publicize the full operational picture, [Israelis] would be fleeing as they would a fire,” on senior official told Channel 12. “Cells of Iranians and Turkish mercenaries are out searching for Israelis at any cost, we can’t foil every single attack; I urge Israelis to return home.”
Israeli officials believe that Iran has been planning these attacks for months in response to the assassination of a number of its scientist and senior officials. The Israeli intelligence was blamed for these assassinations.
The most recent victim was Quds Force Colonel Hassan Sayad Khodayari, who was shot five times in his car by two unidentified gunmen on a motorbike in the heart of the Iranian capital, Tehran, on May 22. Back then, Iran vowed to take revenge.