With the upcoming High Holidays being a peak travel time for Jews, Israel’s National Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Division released its assessment of terror threats against Israelis abroad on Thursday.
The CTD stressed that it is only assessing patterns in terror threats around the world so that Israelis can make informed travel plans, and not issuing formal travel advisories.
The primary threats come from Iran, which the CTD called “the main generator of global terrorism.” Tehran “continues its activities to promote harm to Israeli citizens and Jews around the world,” it said.
The report noted Iranian attempts to contact Israelis abroad in the guise of business or by impersonating others online.
The CTD also stressed that PA Arab terror groups, most notably Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have a “high motivation” to abduct Israeli nationals as “bargaining chips.” According to the CTD, Hamas perceives efforts to swap Israeli civilians Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed and the bodies of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin to have reached an impasse.
Mengistu and Sayed, who are both mentally unstable, have been held in Gaza since they managed to wander across the border in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Goldin and Shaul were killed while fighting in Gaza in 2014.
Hamas supreme leader Ismail Haniyeh has stated publicly that “Hamas will not hesitate to promote kidnappings” and that “we have four prisoners in our possession and if this is not enough to convince Israel to make a deal, then we will kidnap more using our arms that are everywhere,” the CTD stressed.
According to the assessment, the areas with the highest probabilities of threats include the countries surrounding Iran — Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and the Kurdish region — countries along the Mediterranean basin, Africa and Latin America.
In July, for example, a Cypriot police probe confirmed Israeli intelligence warnings that a team of Iranian hitmen were on the island targeting Israeli businessmen and tourists.
The CTD singled out Sweden for special concern “due to the Koran burning events in the country,” and the Sinai Peninsula, calling on Israelis to stay in known, secure tourist sites and not to venture into the Sinai interior.
Israelis are banned from traveling to five enemy countries — Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran — even if they hold additional citizenships and can enter with a different passport.
The CTD noted the abduction of Elizabeth Tzurkov, a Russian-Israeli doctoral student at Princeton University who was kidnapped in Baghdad in March 2023 while researching jihadist groups.
Tsurkov, 38, is believed to be a captive of Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia backed by Iran.