All Israelis Missing in Turkey Accounted For, Foreign Ministry Says

YERUSHALAYIM -
An ambulance arrives at the Ataturk airport, following a blast, in Istanbul, Turkey )Osman Orsal/Reuters)
An ambulance arrives at Ataturk Airport, following a blast, in Istanbul, Turkey. (Osman Orsal/Reuters)

All Israelis who were in Istanbul at the time of Tuesday night’s deadly terror attack have been accounted for, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. A total of 23 Israelis who were in the region failed to contact family or friends after the attack, and the Foreign Ministry began tracking them down, out of fear that they could have been victims of the terror attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. No Israelis were found on the list of the dead or injured, said a spokesperson for the Ministry, and the whereabouts of the missing Israelis has been ascertained.

Israel on Wednesday renewed its warning on travel to Turkey. According to the Foreign Ministry, “the recent terror attacks in Istanbul emphasize the fact that Turkey is a dangerous place to visit.” Although no group has taken responsibility for the attack yet, intelligence sources in the U.S. were quoted as saying that it was likely an IS operation. The terror group is said to be operating throughout the country, making a visit to Turkey a dangerous foray for Israelis.

Despite the renewal of diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey, in a deal signed this week by both countries, tourism industry officials do not believe that Israeli tourism to Turkey will come close to the levels of a decade ago, when hundreds of thousands of Israelis visited Turkey’s “all included” resorts during the summers and school vacation periods. Nevertheless, over 100,000 Israelis were expected to visit Turkey this year. In the first five months of 2016, 60,683 Israelis visited the country, an increase of 40.39 percent over the same first five months of 2015.

It remains to be seen if the latest terror attack will discourage Israelis from visiting Turkey over their summer vacations, but one site in Turkey – Ataturk Airport – is a perennial favorite for Israelis. That’s because Turkish Air, which serves Israel with dozens of flights each week, uses the airport as its hub, so Israelis seeking discounted Turkish Air tickets to Europe and the U.S. often stop off for a few hour layover in Istanbul.

Israelis who were in transition at the airport when the attack occurred said that they were forced to remain at the airport all night, after authorities halted all flights in or out. The travelers told Israel Radio Wednesday that although the airport had reopened, “chaos was reigning, and people have no idea when they will be able to leave,” said one. “People are yelling and screaming at each other. There is no one to speak to. When the airline counters reopened at 6:00 AM, people shoved and pushed to get the attention of attendants. It was sheer chaos.” Over 100 Israelis were at the airport Tuesday night waiting for connecting flights back to Israel, the Foreign Ministry said. Flights out of Israel to Istanbul were suspended after the attack.