The Counterterrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office issued several severe travel advisories on Monday, saying the Islamic State terrorist group may try to target Israelis vacationing overseas during the coming Passover holiday, like reported by israelhayom.com.
In a press briefing in Tel Aviv, bureau Director Eitan Ben-David said Israelis’ lack of concern in visiting the Sinai Peninsula was cause for serious concern in the defense establishment, as intelligence reports suggest that Islamic State operatives are planning to carry out attacks against Israelis in the peninsula.
Ben-David said that despite clear warnings in recent years, Israelis have continued to visit Sinai around the Passover holiday. Reporters were shown videos published by Sinai Province, the jihadi group’s proxy in the desert peninsula, showing operatives practicing shooting attacks against Israelis on beaches or taking taxis to tourist destinations.
The Counterterrorism Bureau also reiterated its serious travel warnings for Turkey, Jordan, Thailand, India, Greece and Cyprus. Defense officials in those countries have been contacted and asked to pay special attention to areas with high concentrations of Israeli tourists.
Warnings were also issued about staying away from crowded tourist attractions in Western Europe, such as Big Ben in London, where there was a terrorist attack last week, markets, museums and popular sporting events. Tourists heading for Africa were warned to stay away from hotels and shopping centers known to be popular with Western visitors.
Ben-David noted that the concern this year was mostly over Islamic State, saying that while Hezbollah remains a threat to those vacationing in northern Israel, the Shiite terrorist group is presently mired in the Syrian civil war. Islamic State, meanwhile, is suffering losses across the Middle East and many of its operatives are returning to their homelands motivated to attack Western targets in general and Israelis in particular.
The travel warning urges Israelis to avoid visiting Turkey entirely, and for those already there to leave. The alert was issued despite the sensitive nature of such a warning and the potential diplomatic consequences.
The Counterterrorism Bureau stressed that its only goal is to warn Israelis and the warnings have no significance on the diplomatic level.
The airports in Istanbul, where many passengers board connecting flights, were omitted from the travel warning because of the considerable security already in place there.
“We have no intention of crying wolf; we believe in what we’re saying,” Ben-David said. “All it takes is one successful attack, as seen in the videos [of Islamic State practicing attacks against Israelis], for the entire country to find itself in a dire situation. It’s important to underscore that these terrorist organizations have no red lines.”