Israel withdraws diplomats from Turkey, asks citizens to leave

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Israel withdrew all of its diplomats from Turkey on Thursday, including Ambassador Irit Lillian, days after raising its travel advisory to its highest level.

Israel’s National Security Council (NSC) warned against travelling to Turkey on Tuesday, citing fears that Israeli travellers might be targeted.

It urged all Israeli citizens in Turkey to leave as soon as possible after raising its travel advisory to its highest level, four.

The diplomats left on Thursday due to security concerns and not because of a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

One source said that the Israeli NSC advisory didn’t differentiate the diplomats from ordinary Israeli nationals and had called on all Israelis to leave.

Tuesday’s NSC advised Israelis to exercise all necessary precautions, such as minimising their presence in public spaces and avoiding gatherings.

Demonstrations have gripped Istanbul and Ankara recently, with rallies outside Israel’s missions in both cities after 13 days of punishing air strikes on Gaza, a tiny enclave home to more than 2.3 million Palestinians.

Israel began bombing Gaza on 7 October when Palestinian fighters launched a surprise assault on Israel, which killed more than 1,400 people.

Retaliatory Israeli air strikes have killed over 3,500 Palestinians, including 1,500 children and 1,000 women. Around one million people have been displaced and forced to shelter in hospitals and schools as Israel tightens its siege of the enclave.

Since the conflict erupted, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly offered to play middleman and help negotiate an end to the hostilities.

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