Israel downgrades travel warning to Turkey

May 02, 2012, Wednesday/ 17:07:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Israeli authorities have downgraded a travel warning to Turkey after a revised assessment of the security risks.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Israeli Counterterrorism Bureau of Israel's National Security Council said there was a “continuing political threat” against Israeli and Jewish targets in Turkey. This is the lowest of four threat levels.

The council also recommended Israelis avoid non-essential travel to Turkey or, at least, “be especially alert and cautious.”

The Israeli National Security Council advised Israelis against traveling to Turkey, citing risks of terrorist attacks aimed at Jews, on March 13, 2012.

In March, Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported the counterterrorism bureau had said terrorists were planning to attack "Israelis and Jewish targets in Turkey in the coming days." Israeli citizens, the bureau had continued, should refrain from traveling to Turkey.

Turkish media reports then said Israeli intelligence agency Mossad had issued a warning that Israel's diplomatic missions in Turkey could be in danger of being attacked by Iran.

The Jerusalem Post also made reference to “alleged Iranian plots to attack Israeli targets thwarted in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Thailand,” as well as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's recent accusation that Israel has committed genocide against Palestinians.

Israel's National Security Council Counterterrorism Bureau also issued a similar warning last year, recommending its citizens avoid non-essential travel to Turkey along with Georgia and Azerbaijan. The travel warning urged its nationals to be highly sensitive and aware at tourist sites and venues, avoid places frequented by large numbers of Israelis and decline unexpected and tempting business proposals and invitations to meetings, especially in remote locales or at night.

Israel and Turkey were once close allies, but after the Mavi Marmara incident, relations became strained. The Israeli Defense Forces' attack on the humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza on May 31, 2010, resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens, for whom Turkey expects an official apology and compensation for the bereaved families. These expectations have not yet been met.

Turkey was Israeli tourists' favorite country prior to the Mavi Marmara incident. After the incident, the tourism sector was negatively affected. The number of Israeli tourists who visited Turkey dropped from 558,183 in 2008 to 311,582 in 2009 and to 109,559 in 2010.

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