Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke by phone on Wednesday with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, to thank him for Ankara’s efforts to protect Israeli tourists from attempts by Iran to harm them.
Lapid and Cavusoglu met in Jerusalem in late May, amid the two erstwhile regional allies work to gradually improve ties.
Israeli authorities on Monday urged citizens to leave Istanbul immediately and reconsider nonessential travel to other parts of Turkey, warning that Iranian agents were ready to kidnap or kill Israelis there as Tehran seeks revenge for slayings blamed on Israel.
Israeli authorities have issued warnings to roughly 1,000 Israelis who were in Turkey, asking them to leave immediately.
Channel 12 news on Wednesday released an interview with a person who said his family member and his friends were whisked away by Israeli authorities after he had been told to immediately leave Turkey, saying he was targeted by Iranian agents and in immediate danger.
“The call was a bit wild, he didn’t understand from where or how they [the Iranians] got to him,” the person said.
“They [Israeli authorities] told him: ‘Your phone is hacked.’ They warned him that his life was in immediate danger and gave him a code to give to the people who would take him to the airport. Then his phone shut down.”
The person also said that his relative was picked up from a prearranged location to the airport, having to leave all of their belongings at the hotel.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday said that Israel will not hesitate to act on foreign soil to protect its citizens.
“In recent days, we have witnessed attempts to harm Israelis in various destinations abroad,” Bennett said during a memorial ceremony for the victims of the First Lebanon War, in his first comments on the alleged attack plot in Turkey.
“The State of Israel’s security forces are doing everything [in their power] to thwart these attacks and to neutralize the attackers and their operators,” the prime minister said. “We will not hesitate to use the power of the State of Israel anywhere in the world, for the protection of our citizens.”
On Monday, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper quoted an unnamed security official as saying several Iranian “cells” were planning operations against Israeli tourists in Turkey.
Channel 13 reported that several Israelis who were in Istanbul were quickly returned home last week by Israeli security officials who identified an Iranian plot to assassinate them.
According to the network, the government waited until Monday to warn the rest of the public about the imminent threat against Israelis in Turkey out of consideration for local authorities there, who wanted time to deal with the situation.
Tensions between Israel and Iran have intensified in recent weeks, after the assassination of an Iranian officer in Tehran last month, airstrikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria, threatening rhetoric from Iranian leaders and Iran’s increasing violations of nuclear agreements.