DM Gantz: Israel ready to respond if Iran attack Israelis in Turkey

Israeli security officials are concerned that Iranian cells with local Turkish operatives would carry out an immediate attack.

 A member of Turkish Police Special Forces stands guard at the entrance of a street leading the Neve Shalom Synagogue (photo credit: REUTERS/DILARA SENKAYA)
A member of Turkish Police Special Forces stands guard at the entrance of a street leading the Neve Shalom Synagogue
(photo credit: REUTERS/DILARA SENKAYA)

Israel will respond to any Iranian attacks against its citizens with force, at anywhere, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned amid warnings that Iran terror cells are seeking to carry out an imminent attack to kill or kidnap Israelis visiting Turkey.

"I call on all Israelis in Turkey to obey the instructions of security forces,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Saturday night. "Israel is working to thwart Iranian attempts to carry out an attack, and is preparing to respond forcefully to any attack on Israeli citizens - anywhere."

The warning came as defense officials warned of concrete threats against Israelis in the Turkish city. An estimated 2,000 Israelis are believed to be visiting, down from 5,000 earlier in the week.

A senior security source told The Jerusalem Post that “the event is really not behind us. A great deal of caution must still be exercised.”

“The event is really not behind us. A great deal of caution must still be exercised.”

Senior security source

According to the source, while there is a “significant emphasis” on Istanbul, Israelis should “avoid reaching Turkey completely.”

 Members of special IRGC forces attend a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022.  (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS) Members of special IRGC forces attend a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022. (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

On Friday afternoon, senior defense officials including Mossad chief David Barnea and the head of the National Security Council (NSC) Eyal Haluta met for a situational assessment. The NSC later issued rare and specific warnings for Israelis in the country, telling them to lock their hotel room doors and not to open them for even housekeeping. 

They also warned travelers not to post on social media or go to tourist locations usually popular with Israelis and to refrain from entering cabs soliciting their business.

According to Haaretz, one of the scenarios Israel is concerned about is an Iranian cell infiltrating into a hotel in order to kidnap or kill Israeli guests while another scenario was local Turkish cell members posing as tour guides to approach Israelis in order to kidnap them.

Other possible scenarios include bombings.

One security source told Channel 13 on Saturday that “there are Israelis who were minutes from death and do not know it.” 

Another source told Channel 12 that “being in Istanbul right now [for an Israeli] is akin to playing Russian roulette, tempting fate. If we could publicize the full operational picture, [Israelis] would be fleeing as they would a fire.”

The official said that the green light had been given to the cells and that there is a “manhunt right now in the streets of Istanbul to stop an incident that has already gotten underway.”

Israeli and Turkish security forces have been working intensively together to foil terror attacks, but Israel is concerned that with the number of targets continuing to diminish, the several cells that are working to carry out attacks would go to great lengths to find potential victims.

Lapid's warning, Iran's revenge

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called on Israelis to avoid Istanbul earlier in the week as the National Security Council raised the threat level for Turkey and Istanbul to the highest level following the publication of reports that Israel and Turkey thwarted an Iranian terrorist attack in the city last month.

The attempted attack on Israeli tourists was one of several by Iran in recent weeks, Lapid said.

It’s believed that the Iranian behind the attempted attacks in Turkey is the head of the IRGC’s intelligence service, Hossein Taeb, in revenge for the death of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Col. Hassan Sayad Khodayari in Tehran last month.

The Islamic Republic blamed Israel for Khodayari’s death and vowed revenge.

The Quds Force officer is one of several high-ranking IRGC officials killed or kidnapped in recent weeks. At least three Iranians believed to be involved in the regime’s nuclear and missile projects have mysteriously died in the past week.

Two of them, Ali Kamani and Mohammad Abdus, both IRGC aerospace engineers whose deaths were announced on Sunday, were reportedly involved in developing arms for Hezbollah in Lebanon. A third, Vahab Faramarzian also died in mysterious circumstances.

The senior defense source told The Jerusalem Post that there have been reports that there’s been heavy criticism laid against Tayet and that in recent days some in Iran’s security establishment who have called for his removal following a series of failures including the series of operations inside Iran against the scientists and IRGC officers as well as the numerous failures in trying to carry out attacks in Turkey

According to the source, the reports in Iran have described Tayeb acting in recent days “like a wounded animal, who out of deep anxiety for his position and is trying in a deep frenzy to carry out an attack against Israelis in Turkey and other places at all costs.”