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Israel lifts ban, basketball team heads to Turkey game

Ben Gurion Airport
Team originally banned from travelling to Gaziantep because of 'exceptional threat level posed in the region'

Israel's Ironi Nahariya basketball team was headed for Turkey for a Europe Cup match on Wednesday despite concerns over potential threats, said an Israeli security agency which initially opposed the trip.

Nahariya was set to play Gaziantep away in a round of 16 second leg game on February 22, after beating the Turkish side 96-75 in Israel.

Gaziantep, in southeastern Turkey, lies near the Syrian border.

Earlier this month, police in Gaziantep detained four suspected members of the Islamic State jihadist group and seized explosives and weapons intended for a "sensational" attack, Turkish news agency Dogan reported.

Israel's Shin Bet domestic security agency said last week that despite efforts with Israeli and Turkish officials, the "exceptional threat level posed in the region" forced them to ban the team from travelling.

The sports ministry, however, appealed the decision, following which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to allow the team to travel, a Shin Bet spokesman said.

The spokesman said the threat level had not changed but that the agency would provide the delegation security in coordination with local forces.

Sports Minister Miri Regev, travelling with the delegation, said she was happy they managed to overcome the difficulties, thanking the Israeli and Turkish security services for their efforts.

Under a travel advisory, the Israeli government has advised its citizens not to visit Turkey "in light of the high threat level".


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