Israel has advised its citizens to immediately leave Turkey amid mounting tensions with Turkey.
Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign minister, urged Turkish citizens to leave “as soon as possible” due to threats that Iranian operatives are planning attacks on Israelis in Istanbul.
The stark warning comes amid a recent escalation in tensions between Iran and Israel, with Tehran accusing Israel of a series of attacks on its nuclear and military infrastructure, both inside Iran and in Syria.
No mention of alleged Israeli operations against Iranian targets was made by Lapid.
However, he claimed that Israelis in Turkey were in “real and immediate danger” from Iranian agents, citing “multiple Iranian attempts to carry out terror attacks against Israelis on vacation in Istanbul.”
In a public warning, Lapid said, “If you are already in Istanbul, return to Israel as soon as possible.”
“If you have a flight to Istanbul planned, you should cancel it. There is no holiday worth your life,” he added during a meeting with members of his Yesh Atid party.
“Do not fly to Turkey at all unless it is absolutely necessary,” the foreign minister advised Israelis.
Israel’s National Security Council upped its travel warning for Istanbul to the highest level just hours after he made his statement.
The National Security Council has upped the travel warning for Istanbul to the highest level, Level 4, due to the continued nature of the threat and intensified Iranian objectives to attack Israelis in Turkey, particularly Istanbul.
Other regions of Turkey remained at intermediate danger Level 3, according to the NSC, which added that using Istanbul airport as a connecting hub for flights was not prohibited “given that one does not exit the airport.”
Iran and Israel have been at odds for years, but tensions have risen as a result of a series of high-profile incidents that Tehran has blamed on Israel.
Colonel Sayyad Khodai of the Revolutionary Guards was shot dead outside his home in Tehran on May 22. The Islamic republic blamed Israel for his death.
He was identified by the Guards as a “defender of the sanctuary,” a word used to denote people who labor on behalf of Iran in Syria or Iraq, and they promised to avenge his death by “Zionists.”
Israel was also blamed for air strikes on Damascus International Airport last week, which damaged two runways severely.
The airport is located south of Damascus, in an area frequented by Iran-backed militias such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
While Israel seldom discusses specific strikes, it has admitted to carrying out hundreds in Syria, which the Jewish state’s military claims is required to prevent Iran from developing a foothold on its southern border.
Some Israelis who recently traveled to Turkey, according to Lapid, returned “without knowing their lives had been saved.”
According to Lapid, the suspected attackers were targeting Israeli nationals “in order to abduct or kill them.”
Iranian spies plotted to kidnap Israelis in Turkey a month ago, according to Israel’s national broadcaster Kan.
After Israel warned Ankara about the threat, the plot was foiled.
Lapid commended Turkey’s leadership for “the effort they’re putting into protecting the lives of Israeli nationals,” but did not elaborate.