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Israel Urges Citizens to Leave Istanbul

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Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid | Image by REUTERS

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The Nation of Israel has taken the unusual step of issuing an alert to all of its country’s citizens to leave Istanbul, Turkey, immediately.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced Monday that the government had allegedly seen tangible evidence of a potential Iranian plot to kidnap or murder Israeli nationals in Istanbul.


The country’s National Security Council released a statement explaining the request.

“Two weeks ago a travel warning to Turkey was raised after defense officials raised fears of Iranian attempts to harm Israeli targets around the world, especially in Turkey,” the statement said.

Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau raised its alert status for Istanbul to a four, the highest possible ranking representing the greatest potential danger. The new level puts the Turkish city on the same rating as Iran, Afghanistan, and Burkina Faso.

The rest of Turkey is now rated a three, meaning all non-essential travel to the country is highly discouraged.

The move comes after the May 23 assassination of a colonel in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Colonel Sayad Khodai was in the foreign intelligence service, the equivalent of the U.S. CIA or UK MI6.

Col. Khodai was getting out of his car in front of his home in Tehran when two unidentified gunmen on motorcycles drove up and shot him in the head five times. The Iranian government immediately blamed the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Mossad and vowed revenge for the killing.

Iranian President Ibrihim Raisi said in a speech after the assassination, “I have agreed for our security forces to seriously follow up on this matter, and I have no doubt that revenge for the pure blood of our martyr will be taken.”

Iran state media said the killing “change[d] many equations” and vowed that those responsible would “pay a heavy price.”

The Jerusalem Post reported that Col. Khodai planned kidnappings and murders of Jews and Israeli citizens worldwide. He was also directly responsible for local drug dealers and mercenaries carrying out the attacks.

Khodai was responsible for an attack on an Israeli envoy in 2012, The Times of Israel reported. It also said that Channel 13 reported that Khodai was responsible for kidnappings or attempted assassinations against Israelis in Colombia, Cyprus, Kenya, and Turkey.

Little information is officially known about the colonel, which is not unusual for an intelligence officer who reportedly worked closely with the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

Israel, for its part, has never officially confirmed or denied involvement in the colonel’s death.      

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