Israel eases Turkey warning, but non-essential travel still not recommended

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Two Turkish riot police officers walk in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, on June 14, 2022. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)
Two Turkish riot police officers walk in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, on June 14, 2022. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)

Israel announces that it has lightened its travel warning for citizens traveling to Turkey to Level 3, or moderate.

The National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau says in a statement that arrests and counterterror operations against Iranian-backed operatives led to the reduction.

Under the Level 3 warning, Israelis are still advised to avoid all non-essential travel to Turkey.

The highest travel warning had been in place since June 13. “It’s a return to the situation we knew several weeks ago,” says Yossi Adler, senior director for Intelligence at National Security Council, in a briefing to Israeli diplomatic reporters.

The NSC warns that Iran’s motivation to carry out attacks remains high, and that it assesses that “there are efforts to build infrastructure on the one hand and identify potential Israeli and Jewish targets on the other hand.”

Israelis are being asked to avoid publicizing details of upcoming trips to Turkey and posting photos while they are still in the country; to avoid wearing any clothes that could indicate they are from Israel; and to refrain from giving personal details to and having unnecessary contact with strangers.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett thanks Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey’s security forces for foiling attempts by Iran to attack Israeli travelers.

“Our activities were successful, and succeeded in protecting human life,” says Bennett. “We will gradually return to normal.”

According to senior Israeli officials, significant intelligence had indicated that Iran was seeking to carry out attacks against Israeli tourists in the country to avenge a series of killings and strikes on Iranian military and nuclear targets that have been attributed to the Jewish state.

Adler underscores that recent reports in Israeli media that a decision to lift the highest warning had been made, but remained in place due to unspecified bureaucracy, were baseless.

“We didn’t hurry to remove it because we treated the area like a minefield, ” he explains. “Before people started walking around that area, we had to do extensive and deeper checks.”

The threat was “significant, immediate, and widespread,” according to Adler.

Turkish security forces arrested a number of suspects in recent weeks, including Turkish citizens, says Adler. He adds that information gleaned from the Turkish arrests is still being processed.

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