The National Security Council has decided to reduce the level of warning for travel to Istanbul from level 4 to level 3 in light of a reduction in the number of threats against Israelis in the Turkish capital. Level 3 still represents an intermediate threat.
The head of the National Security Council's intelligence division, Yossi Adler, commented on the reduction of the warning level and said: "We currently assess the level of the threat as lower than what we have identified in recent weeks and are lowering the warning level from 4 to 3. We are not lowering the travel warning at all, but returning to the situation it was in until a few weeks ago."
"We made quite a few situational assessments, examined things in a systematic and orderly manner and were in no hurry to lower the level of warning, because we treat that area like a minefield. We did all the assessments and acted before Israelis returned to Istanbul," Adler added.
He noted that there was very close cooperation between Israel and Turkey on the issue. "The Turks have carried out many operations, some of which were carried out jointly with us and in coordination with us. They have made a series of arrests and among the detainees there are also local citizens and we are familiar with the Iranian system which also utilizes local infrastructure."
"All along the way we witnessed a significant, immediate and widespread threat. After the arrests made by the Turks, the depth of the threat, the multiplicity of squads, the efforts made in parallel, can be understood. There was Iranian motivation, squads in the field and Israeli targets already marked," Adler emphasized.
He said, "Therefore, we took quite unusual and even unconventional actions in relation to what we've done in the past. There was a considered, skilled and high-quality conduct of the defense system together with the Turks. This is a different format and with high effectiveness compared to the past regarding travel warnings. In the future, too, if and when we find ourselves in similar situations, I think a dialogue with the public should also be conducted."
"We have not resting on our laurels neither in Turkey nor around the world. There are still travel warnings that reflect potential for terrorist incidents and the higher the level of warning, the higher the potential threat. In Turkey, as elsewhere, Iranians have the motivation and capabilities they want to exercise. We will continue to work with the Turks to prevent future threat potential from developing. If we understand later that the potential is lowered even further, we will not hesitate to lower the level of travel warnings to Turkey," he concluded.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said: "I would like to thank our security forces, together with the Turkish security forces, who have carried out operations in recent months, and even more so in recent weeks, to thwart attempts to harm Israelis in Istanbul and Turkey. Our operations were successful and saved lives. We will gradually return to routine. I call on Israelis to remain vigilant. A special thanks to President Erdogan and his people for their cooperation in preventing harm to Israelis in Turkey."
The National Security Council reiterated that there remains a danger, and called on Israelis to take the following steps if they plan on traveling to Istanbul.
1. Avoid publicizing travel details on social media before traveling to Turkey or any other country, or photos and visit details in real time.
2. Give hike / trip details (route, lodgings & flights) and means of contact to a family member in Israel (first-degree if possible).
3. Be alert while traveling and pay attention to what is going on around you.
4. Avoid displaying Israeli indicators and do not discuss service in the Israeli security establishment with unknown persons.
5. Avoid the unnecessary divulging of personal details or details about one's trip to strangers.
6. Avoid contacts with strangers with whom one is not acquainted (this does not apply to service providers but to persons who have no direct connection to your visit).