Three Israeli tourists were killed and ten were wounded in Istanbul on Saturday, as a suicide bomber reportedly linked to Islamic State blew himself up on a popular pedestrian street lined with shops and consulates.
The bodies of Jonathan Shor, 40, Simha Damari, 60 and Avraham Goldman, 69, were flown back to Israel on Sunday, alongside five of the injured. The others remained in hospital in Turkey, with Israeli medics on-hand.
The attack took place on a popular shopping strip lined with international stores and foreign consulates, but although officials in Jerusalem do not believe that Israelis were the targets, the government has now advised against all travel to Turkey.
The bomber, who also killed an Iranian, was a Turkish citizen subsequently linked to the Islamic State group but was not on any wanted list, Turkey’s interior minister said. Five arrests have since been made and investigations are continuing.
“Terrorism sows death around the world,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Israel is at the forefront of the fight against global terrorism. This struggle is first of all military, but no less is it a moral struggle.”
He added: “The key to the moral fight against terrorism is to make it clear that terrorism, the murder of innocents, has no justification anywhere – not in Istanbul or the Ivory Coast or Jerusalem. Whoever does not condemn terrorism supports it.”
Israelis have been warned against unnecessary travel to Turkey since 2014 but the latest attack – Turkey’s fourth terrorist incident in 2016 – saw Israel’s counter-terrorism bureau rule out any travel to the country. The advice was upgraded to a Level Two warning, meaning there is now the threat of concrete attacks.
Senior Israeli diplomat Dore Gold cut short a visit to Washington, D.C. to fly to Turkey, joining an Israeli military rescue mission including military and medical personnel, who flew in on a Hercules equipped with an emergency operating theatre.
Relations between Israel and Turkey have been frosty since Israeli commandos killed ten Turkish activists aboard a Gaza-bound ship in 2010, but diplomats have recently suggested a thaw, with officials in Ankara adopting a conciliatory tone.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a fierce critic of Israel in the past, condemned Saturday’s attack and sent condolences to the Israeli people, and fired a low-level member of the governing party who tweeted that they hoped the injured Israelis would die.