WAR IN THE SHADOWSFearing Iranian Attacks, Israel Urges Israeli Travelers in Turkey to Return Home

Published 14 June 2022

The stealthy war between Israel and Iran is escalating. In late May, Israeli intelligence uncovered a secret Iranian plot to kill and kidnap Israeli tourists in Turkey, a favorite tourist destination for Israelis. The Turkish authorities were alerted, and the Iranian agents were captured. A few days later, a colonel in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was killed in broad daylight in the middle of Teheran. The colonel’s unit was responsible for planning and carrying out attacks on Israelis abroad.

On Monday, Israel’s foreign minister Yair Lapid appealed publicly for Israelis not to travel to Turkey, one of the popular tourism destination for Israelis during the spring and summer. “If you’ve planned a trip to Istanbul, cancel it. No vacation is worth risking your life.” He added: “If you are already in Istanbul, please return to Israel as soon as possible.”

Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, let it be known that it – and its Turkish counterpart – have incontrovertible evidence that Iran was set to launch a campaign of killing and kidnapping against Israeli tourist in Turkey, and that that some of these planned attacks had been foiled.

A few hours later, an official from the Israeli National Security Council announced that the severity of the existing travel warning for trips to Turkey had been raised to Level 4, which is the highest level.

The dire warning to Israeli travelers is but the latest manifestation of escalating tensions between Israel and Iran, and the increasing pace and reach of Israel’s covert campaign against Iran’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, and against Iran’s intensifying efforts to provide Hezbollah, the Shi’a militia in Lebanon, with evermore sophisticated arms.

Israeli sources say that at the end of May, an Iranian plot to kidnap a few Israel tourists in Istanbul was discovered. The Turkish authorities were alerted, and the Iranian agents were captured.

A few days later, a colonel in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was shot in the middle of the day in Tehran, a couple of blocks from Iran’s parliament building. The officer, Sajjad Khodaei, was a senior officer in the Al-Quds Brigade, which is responsible for the Revolutionary Guard’s missions abroad. Israeli sources say that planning attacks against Israelis abroad was his unit’s responsibility.

Iran blamed Israel for the killing of Khodaei – he was killed by a two armed men on motorcycles — and President Ebrahim Raisi vowed that Khodaei’s death would be avenged. A few days later, Israel issued its travel warning for visits to Turkey.

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has, on several occasions, pointedly said that Israel was becoming more active in dealing with the threats from Iran, what Israeli call the “war between wars.”

Israel is acting against Iran’s regional ambitions not only inside Iran. Part of this mostly stealthy campaign takes place in Syria, where Israel regularly attacks Iranian positions, military bases, arms depots, and convoys of Iranian and pro-Iranian militias attempting to carry sophisticated weapons across the Lebanese border to Hezbollah.

Last Friday, an Israeli missile attack badly damaged the Damascus International Airport. The damage was extensive, and the airport will be out of commission for several weeks.

Sources say that the target of the attack were several warehouses used by Iranian militias. Israel expanded the attack beyond the warehouses, however, destroying tarmacs, hangars, fuel depots, and the control tower.

Israel says that Iran was using commercial flights to smuggles advanced weapons into Syria, with the aim of providing these advanced weapons to Hezbollah. Israeli sources said that if the government of President Assad wanted to have international flights fly into and out of the Damascus airport, then Iranian’s use of commercial flights to smuggle advanced weapons into Syria must stop.