At a press conference Motzoei Shabbos, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that while it was not yet clear if the terror attack in Istanbul earlier in the day was aimed specifically at Israelis, Israel was investigating this possibility. “We are in constant contact with the Turkish government, and we are attempting to clarify if Israelis were targeted in this attack,” Netanyahu told reporters. “We have initial intelligence that indicates that the attacker was a member of the Islamic State. We are also aware of Israelis with whom their families have not been able to establish contact.”
At least two Israelis were killed and 11 injured in the attack on a central street in Istanbul, as a suicide bomber set off an explosion near a group of Israeli tourists. One of those killed was named as Simcha Damri, 60, a resident of Dimona. In the press conference, Netanyahu confirmed that two Israelis were killed in the attack. Istanbul police said that a third victim was Israeli as well. The fourth victim was said to be an Iranian.
At least one Israeli is in critical condition, with two others seriously injured. Seven others were injured lightly in the blast. Israeli planes carrying Foreign Ministry, insurance company and Magen David Adom officials were on their way to Istanbul Motzoei Shabbos to assess the situation. Channel One said that it was very likely that the lightly injured Israelis would be returned to Israel Sunday morning. Netanyahu said that Israel would consult with doctors and Turkish officials before moving any patients.
A Turkish report Saturday night said that police had identified the bomber as a member of an Islamic State cell. The report said that police were questioning his family and that several arrests were imminent. Netanyahu said that from initial reports it appeared that the terrorist set the bomb off next to the Israeli tour group.
The security cabinet on Sunday will reevaluate travel warnings that are already in place on travel to Turkey, Netanyahu said. “We have had warnings on travel to Turkey in place for some time, and we will officially announce them on Sunday.”
Condemnations poured in from Turkish government officials and the international community. Among those condemning the attack was Turkey’s PKK Kurdish Workers’ Party, which has been accused of encouraging terror attacks by Kurdish radicals against Turkey. In a statement, the U.S. condemned the attack, saying that “the United States stands in solidarity with our NATO ally Turkey in combating the common threat of terrorism. This vicious attack is the latest in a series of indefensible violence targeting innocent people throughout Turkey – Turkish citizens and international visitors alike. These acts of terrorism only reinforce our determination to support all those across the region working to promote peace and reconciliation.”