A Turkish police officer stands guard in front of a synagogue in Istanbul.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkey’s organized Jewish community on Tuesday called on Ankara to boost security at its institutions across the country following reports claiming that an attack by the Islamic State terrorist group is “imminent.”
According to an intelligence source who spoke to Britain’s Sky News, Islamic State intends to target Jewish kindergartens, schools and youth centers, with the most likely target being a synagogue in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district, which is attached to a community center and school.
“We don’t know when it’s scheduled for. It could be in the next 24 hours or next few days,” the source said. “In light of these circumstances, extraordinary security measures are being taken above and beyond the high-alert level already in place by the Turkish police, as well as vigilance within the Jewish community.”
The source, who declined to be named, claimed the information was obtained from six Islamic State members detained in southern Turkey last week and that “this is more than a credible threat. This is an active plot.”
The Turkish Jewish community has stayed mostly silent on the report, declining a request for comment by The Jerusalem Post and only posting a solitary tweet about the threat.
“Reading the news from Sky News concerning us, we have contacted Governmental Authorities & in any case asked for immediate higher security,” the community posted on the microblogging platform.
Sky News’ report came just two days after law enforcement officials in Ankara warned of possible attacks against Jews and Christians by Islamic State, which took credit for a March 19 suicide bombing on a busy Istanbul shopping street that killed five people, including three Israelis.
Turkish media reported that the attacker had followed a group of Israeli tourists before setting off his explosives.
Islamic State has been blamed for four of six bombings in Turkey in the past eight months.
On Monday, only hours before Sky News published its report, the Israeli government called upon all of its citizens in Turkey to leave the country, warning of an Islamic State threat.
Turkey has been making overtures to Israel in recent months, seeking to renew ties ruptured over Israel’s 2009 war with Hamas and then a deadly Israeli raid in 2010 on a Turkish aid ship attempting to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
In his first conversation with an Israeli leader in three years, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told President Reuven Rivlin last Wednesday that Turkey is “ready to cooperate with Israel against terrorism.”
Erdogan’s remark comes even as Turkey continues to support and house Hamas, an issue that has turned into the main obstacle preventing a reconciliation between Ankara and Jerusalem.
Turkey’s Jewish community has come under increasing pressure in recent years as relations between Jerusalem and Ankara have worsened.
During Israel’s 2014 war in Gaza, Erdogan sparked outrage with his demand that Turkish Jewry “release a statement against the Israeli government.”
Erdogan’s demand for Turkish Jews to denounce Israel, as well as his comments comparing the Jewish state to Nazi Germany and accusing it of perpetrating a genocide against the Palestinians, serve as a veiled threat against their community, former Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman said in 2014.
Meanwhile, a study conducted by the Hrant Dink Foundation last January found that anti-Semitism was the most common racial or religious prejudice in the Turkish media, with Jews and Armenians the subjects of just over half of the recorded incidents in a media landscape filled with “biased and discriminatory language use.”
Sixty nine percent of Turks harbor anti-Semitic attitudes, according to a 2014 ADL poll.
Following a meeting with Erdogan and community leaders earlier this year, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said he believed that the Turkish government was doing its best to secure its Jewish minority.
Speaking during a press conference in February, Hoenlein stated that Erdogan was quite firm in stating that “anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are war crimes.”JTA and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.