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‘Iranian terror’: Turkey rejects plan to kill Israelis in Istanbul | News

Written by Javed Iqbal

Turkish authorities arrested Iranians suspected of planning attacks on Israeli tourists and businessmen with pistols and silencers.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday thanked Turkey for helping prevent an Iranian plan to harm Israelis in Istanbul, saying efforts were still ongoing.

Turkish authorities arrested five Iranians suspected of planning attacks on Israelis ahead of Lapid’s visit, Turkish media said earlier in the day.

Lapid warned that Israel would not “sit passively” in the face of threats against its citizens from Iran.

“The lives of Israeli citizens have been saved in recent weeks thanks to security and diplomatic cooperation between Israel and Turkey. These efforts are underway, ”Lapid said during a visit to Turkey.

“We are talking not only about the assassination of innocent Israeli tourists, but also a clear violation of Turkish sovereignty from Iranian terror. We are convinced that Turkey knows how to respond to the Iranians in this case.”

Lapid arrived in Turkey on Thursday for talks with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu as the two countries move forward with efforts to repair ties strained over Turkey’s strong support for the Palestinians.

The newspaper Hurriyet reported that Turkish authorities on Wednesday arrested five Iranian nationals, suspected of involvement in an alleged conspiracy to murder Israeli citizens in Istanbul.

Police seized two handguns and two silencers in searches of houses and hotels where the suspects were staying, according to the report.

There was no immediate response from Iran.

‘Message delivered’

Earlier this month, Israel issued a warning to its citizens not to travel to Turkey, urging Israelis in Turkey to leave immediately. The warning said Israeli citizens could be the target of Iranian attacks.

“For its part, Israel will not sit still when there are attempts to harm its citizens in Israel and around the world. Our immediate goal is to create calm that enables us to change the travel warning to [Turkey]”said Lapid.

The travel warning angered Turkey, whose economy largely depends on tourism. Ankara responded by issuing a statement saying Turkey was a safe country.

Next to Lapid, Cavusoglu said that Turkey “can not allow such incidents to take place in our country”.

“We have provided the necessary messages,” he said without elaborating.

Iran and Israel have been involved in a years-long shadow war, but tensions have risen following a series of high-profile incidents to which Tehran has blamed Israel.

Tehran alleged Israel was responsible for the killing by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei at his Tehran home on 22 May.

Turkey’s private IHA news agency reported that Iran was sending agents disguised as businessmen and tourists to Istanbul to assassinate Israelis in retaliation for Khodaei’s killings and other attacks.

Meanwhile, the IRGC said Thursday that it was replaces its veteran intelligence chief without justification for why.

Recent approach

Turkey, plagued by economic problems, has sought to end its international isolation by normalizing ties with several countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Turkey and Israel were once close allies, but relations were strained under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is a vocal critic of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. Turkey’s embrace of Hamas, the movement that controls the besieged Gaza Strip, has angered Israel.

The countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2010 after Israeli forces stormed a humanitarian flotilla en route to Gaza, which has been under Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas came to power there in 2007.

Nine Turkish activists were killed. Israel apologized to Turkey for the deaths under a US-mediator agreement, but reconciliation efforts stalled.

Turkey recalled its ambassador in 2018 after the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, prompting Israel to respond in kind. The two countries have not reappointed their ambassadors.

The latest rapprochement has been led by Israel’s mostly ceremonial president, Isaac Herzog, who has held several phone calls with Erdogan and visited Turkey in March, becoming the first Israeli leader to do so in 14 years.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Israel last month. It was the first official visit to Israel by a Turkish official in 15 years.

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Javed Iqbal

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