Israel’s intelligence agency (Shin Bet) denied claims that Iranian armed cells seeking to attack Israeli tourists on Turkish soil had been arrested, explaining that there are still cells roaming freely in Istanbul, other cities, and tourist facilities in Turkey.
Israeli intelligence said that what complicates the situation for Turkish intelligence is that during investigations with detainees in this case, it became clear that the members of the armed network are not all Iranians, but rather have some Turkish individuals among them.
A security official told Israeli media on Friday that Iranians were able to recruit and train a number of Turkish citizens in the operations.
The official said the detainees admitted to planning to carry out shooting attacks on Israeli tourists in Turkey.
They were also plotting to kidnap Israelis on the outskirts of cities.
“Despite the arrest of quite a few suspects, there is a conviction in Ankara and Tel Aviv that there are still activists in these cells roaming freely and seeking to hunt down Israelis,” the official added.
Israel’s National Security Council in recent days has issued a travel advisory to Turkey and asked Israelis already there to return immediately.
Channel 12 quoted officials saying that Israeli agents were in Turkey working shoulder to shoulder with their Turkish counterparts in an effort to thwart the attacks, noting the excellent cooperation with local officials.
In the past few days several Iranian cells were caught by Turkish authorities, Haaretz cited Israeli sources. They said Iranian teams are still at large in Turkey.
Several attacks were thwarted in the past two weeks, some by Iranian agents and some by locals under Iranian directives, Channel 12 news reported without naming a source for the information. No arrests were announced.
On Monday, the National Security Council raised the warning level for travel to Istanbul, putting it alongside Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iran as places that Israelis must leave immediately and may not visit.
The authority said it raised the warning level amid “continuing threats and Iranian intentions to harm Israelis in Turkey, with an emphasis on Istanbul.” Other parts of Turkey remained at a slightly lower warning level, with recommendations to avoid visiting the country for nonessential reasons.