The Population and Immigration Authority said Tuesday that its officers have been able to stop 97 residents of the Ivory Coast from arriving in Israel
illegally under the guise of pilgrims.
The group was set to board a plane to Israel in Turkey, but information given to Ankara's authorities by the Population and Immigration Authority foiled their plan. The would-be infiltrators are to be sent back to their country.
"Intelligence information and cooperation with Turkey prevented a great inconvenience," said Amnon Shmueli, who heads the Population and Immigration Authority's Ben Gurion Airport division.
The cooperation between the Israeli and Turkish authorities is unusual considering the deepening diplomatic rift between the two nations.
In a magazine interview
that was published Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan drew a comparison between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
government and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's
"One might wonder why no sanctions have been imposed on Israel. When it's Iran in question, you impose sanctions. Similarly with Sudan. What happens with Israel then?"
The Ivory Coast, a region which has been marred by strife for the past decade, saw an escalation in the crisis last November when incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power after losing the elections to Alassane Ouattara. Thousands were killed and displaced due to the violence, which continued even after Gbagbo's arrest in April.