Photo Credit: HLJ
View of the Bosphorus, in Istanbul, May 2013

The National Security Council (NSC) Counter-Terrorism Bureau wrote on Monday (June 13) that it raised the alert “in light of the continuing threat and in view of the escalation of Iranian intentions to harm Israelis in Turkey, with an emphasis on Istanbul.”

The NSC called on Israelis currently in Istanbul to leave the city at the earliest opportunity, and on Israelis planning to travel to Turkey to avoid doing so until further notice.

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Two weeks ago, Israel’s travel warning to the public for Turkey was reissued in the wake of security concerns about Iranian attempts to attack Israeli targets around the world, but especially in Turkey.

“It should be recalled that other areas in Turkey are under a Level 3 (intermediate) travel warning; therefore, the NSC recommends that Israelis also avoid non-essential travel to other parts of the country,” the security agency warned.

However, the NSC added that there is no reason to avoid flights with connections in Istanbul provided one does not leave the airport.

In the past year and a half, Iran and its affiliates have increased their activities abroad, including repeated threats to harm Israelis and Jews around the world, particularly in Turkey, Cyprus and Colombia.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued a separate statement on the upgraded travel warning.

“We are calling on Israelis not to fly to Istanbul, and unless there is an essential need: do not fly to Turkey at all. If you are already in Istanbul, return to Israel as soon as possible,” Lapid said.

“In recent weeks, Israeli security services, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Prime Minister’s Office have put tremendous effort into saving Israeli lives, some of whom have returned to Israel and are walking among us without knowing their lives were saved,” he said.

“These terror attacks have targeted Israelis who went on vacation. They have intentionally chosen Israeli citizens in order to kidnap them or kill them. It could happen to anyone. It’s a real and immediate danger.

“If you’ve planned a flight to Istanbul – cancel it. No vacation is worth your lives and the lives of your loved ones.”

Lapid also thanked the Turkish government for “the effort they’re putting into protecting the lives of Israeli citizens.”

Tourism to Turkey is important to both countries, he noted, “but they also understand there are risks that should not be taken.”

Lapid also issued a warning to Tehran: “Whoever harms Israelis will pay. We will find them, no matter where they are.”

The foreign minister said it is hoped the warning won’t last long. “It’s tourist season, and we will do everything to bring about security calm that will enable Israelis to return to Turkey and enjoy all that it has to offer as soon as possible,” he said.

“Until then, this warning stands and I call on anyone who has planned to fly to Turkey to find a different destination.”

Not mentioned was the ease with which Iranians move in and out of Turkey, and the country’s warm hospitality to Iranian proxy terrorist groups such as Hamas.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.