Israel warns Passover travelers of Iranian plots to harm them abroad

Gulf countries, Turkey, Sinai represent heightened risk as Jewish holiday coincides with Muslim holy month of Ramadan, says National Security Council

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Travelers walk with their luggage in  Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, November 28, 2021. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
Travelers walk with their luggage in Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, November 28, 2021. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Iran will continue its attempts to harm Israelis around the world, especially in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean, the National Security Council (NSC) warned on Monday.

In its guidance for Israeli travelers ahead of the Passover holiday, the NSC emphasized that Iran and its proxies present a particular threat in countries neighboring Iran, including the United Arab Emirates, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Bahrain.

Cyprus and Greece, popular holiday destinations for Israelis, are also countries where Iran is likely to target Jews and Israelis, according to the assessment.

The NSC did not warn against travel to these destinations, but instead called on Israelis “to be aware, to act responsibly in accordance with the level of danger in the country being visited.”

The NSC lists Muslim partners Turkey, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt as Level 3 threats, meaning that all non-essential travel should be avoided.

Iranian plots have been foiled in several of these countries over the past year. In November last year, Georgian security officials foiled an attempt by a Pakistani citizen to murder an Israeli in Georgia on orders from an Iranian operative.

In July, Turkish forces foiled an attempt by Iranian agents to kill Israelis in Istanbul, arresting three men.

The news came a month after the Mossad spy agency and its local counterparts managed to thwart three Iranian attacks targeting Israeli civilians in Istanbul. Iran denied the allegations.

Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stand in front of Shahab-3 missile which is displayed during the annual al-Quds Day rally in Tehran, Iran, April 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Also in June, security forces in Thailand were reportedly successful in preventing an Iranian agent from establishing a terror cell in the country and potentially carrying out attacks against Israelis.

In October 2021, Israel said that an Iranian plot against Israeli businessmen in Cyprus had been foiled.

There have also been warnings by Israeli officials about Iranian terrorist infrastructure in Western Europe. Ahead of the high holidays last year, security officials said that several Iranian attempts to attack dissidents had been uncovered in Europe, indicating the regime has infrastructure and personnel in place that could be directed against Israelis.

“There were activities in Western Europe and Scandinavia against opposition figures, and also reports of activities against American officials on European soil,” a security source told Ynet last year.

Turkish authorities arrest an alleged Iranian cell that sought to target Israelis in Istanbul on June 23, 2022. (Screen capture/CNN Turkey)

Iran and Israel have been engaged in a decades-long shadow war across the Middle East and beyond.

“In the past year, attempts by Iranian terror operatives to establish contact (using a business cover/disguise) with Israeli citizens, in Israel and abroad, has continued,” the 2023 report read, “in order to extract them to carry out an attack or to kidnap them.”

The NSC also warned that Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State and al-Qaeda have been increasing calls lately to strike Jews and Israelis around the world.

Israeli tourists at Ras Sheitan in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, on April 5, 2021. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

Tens of thousands of Israelis head to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula over the Passover holiday every year. The report warned them to remain in recognized tourist areas secured by Egyptian forces.

Passover beings on the evening of April 5 and runs through the evening of April 13.

The NSC also pointed out that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincides with Passover this year: “Unusual security incidents across Judea and Samaria, Jerusalem (and the Temple Mount), and Israel could, as in the past, influence heightened motivation to carry out attacks against Israelis abroad.”

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