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Lapid warns Israelis to avoid Turkey, says Iranian attempts already foiled

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is urging Israelis in Istanbul to return home in light of alleged attempts by Iran to attack Israeli travelers as it seeks revenge for the assassination of a senior member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Lapid says that Iranian agents are looking to murder or kidnap Israelis, calling it “a real and immediate threat.”

“If you are already in Istanbul, return to Israel as soon as possible. If you planned a trip to Istanbul — cancel it. There is no vacation that is worth your lives,” Lapid tells TV cameras at the start of a Yesh Atid faction meeting.

“Do not fly to Turkey at all,” unless such travel is “essential,” the foreign minister adds.

Lapid goes out of his way to thank the Turkish government for their efforts to protect Israelis in the country.

“Israeli security organizations, the Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office, we have all been part of a massive effort in recent weeks that saved Israeli lives,” he says. “Some of them came back to Israel and are walking among us without even knowing that their lives were saved.”

Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 13, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Travel warnings generally come from the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office, and not at party meetings, but a Lapid spokesman tells The Times of Israel that the announcement was made because it is where Lapid happened to be making public remarks.

According to Hebrew media reports Sunday, Israeli and Turkish security agencies last month uncovered an Iranian plot to kidnap Israeli tourists in Turkey and foiled it in the nick of time.

Israeli diplomatic missions have been on alert, expecting Iran to seek revenge for the assassination last month of the IRGC officer.

However, Kan reported that the attempted kidnapping happened before the officer’s killing.

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