April 22, 2018

Turkey: US and Israel warn of ‘imminent’ attack threat

Tens of thousands of Israelis visit Turkey each year despite strained relations between the two countries [AP]

The United States and Israel on Saturday warned their citizens of a high-level, imminent threat of attacks in Turkey – urging them to immediately leave the country.

The US embassy warned American citizens of “credible threats” to tourist areas in Istanbul and the resort city of Antalya, after Israel announced “immediate risks” of attacks.

“The US Mission in Turkey would like to inform US citizens that there are credible threats to tourist areas, in particular to public squares and docks in Istanbul and Antalya,” read the emergency travel warning published on its official website.

Three different attacks in the capital Ankara over the past six months killed more than 170 people.

Tensions between the Turkish government and Kurdish separatists have boiled over, and strikes by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have intensified over the past year.

Israel’s counter-terrorism bureau said on Saturday that it was reiterating and sharpening the high level of threat in Turkey following a situational assessment.

“There are immediate risks of attacks being carried out in the country, and we stress the threat applies to all tourism sites in Turkey,” the bureau said.

It called on all Israelis to avoid visiting Turkey and urged Israeli tourists there to leave “as soon as possible”, defining the threat as level 2 – “concrete and high”. The country made a similar warning on March 28.

Three Israelis and an Iranian were killed and 39 people wounded when a man blew himself up on Istiklal Street, a famous shopping thoroughfare in the heart of Turkey’s largest city, on March 19.

Turkey said the bomber had links to ISIL, also known as ISIS. On Tuesday, Israel’s defence ministry said he had most probably targeted the Israelis deliberately.

Another attack in Istanbul’s old city, the Sultanahmet district, targeting tourists killed 12 Germans and one Peruvian in January.

Tens of thousands of Israelis visit nearby Turkey each year despite strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.

On March 29, President Reuven Rivlin expressed deep concern over reports that ISIL was planning to attack Jewish schoolchildren in Turkey.

Turkey, a NATO member country, was a regional ally of Israel until the two cut ties in 2010 over the deadly storming by Israeli commandos of a Turkish aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip, which left 10 Turkish activists dead.

The two sides have been in talks to repair the damaged ties.

On March 29, the US State Department and Pentagon ordered the families of American diplomats and military staff to leave posts in southern Turkey because of security fears.

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