A suicide bomber blew himself up in the heart of downtown Istanbul Saturday next to a group of Israeli tourists, killing at least five people and injuring dozens. At least three Israelis are confirmed to be among the dead.
The Times of Israel covered developments as they unfolded Saturday.
Diplomats visiting Israelis hurt in bombing
Israeli consular officials are at the four Istanbul hospitals where Israelis injured in Saturday’s bombing are receiving treatment.
One of the 11 Israelis injured in the blast has already been released from the hospital. One is critically injured, two are seriously hurt, two moderately and the remainder lightly hurt.
There is no immediate confirmation from Israel’s Foreign Ministry about reports that three Israelis were killed in the blast.
Israeli government advises against travel to Turkey
The Israeli government has advised citizens not to travel to Turkey after Saturday’s bombing.
The National Security Council issued the travel advisory just weeks before the Passover holiday. Turkish resorts are a popular destination for Israeli tourists during the spring vacation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s also Israel’s foreign minister, instructed diplomats to increase manpower at the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul and instructed officials to bring Israelis injured in the attack back to Israel.
Two Magen David Adom ambulance planes took off for Istanbul Saturday evening.
Turkey runs DNA test on Islamic State bomber’s father
Turkish authorities have taken a DNA sample from the father of the suspected suicide bomber who carried out Saturday’s attack in downtown Istanbul, Hurriyet Daily News reports.
The suspect, Savas Yildiz, 33, was a suspected Islamic State member and was on a government watchlist for suspected involvement in attacks last year in the cities of Mersin and Adana, the Dogan News Agency reports.
Turkish PM condemns ‘inhumane’ suicide bombing
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called an emergency security meeting in Istanbul. Davutoglu condemns today’s suicide bombing as “inhumane” and vows to continue to fight “centers of terrorism.”
“The investigation is ongoing, we’ll understand the incident as soon as possible. This bitter incident shows once more the rightness of our approach,” he said in a statement.
The US embassy in Turkey says on Twitter it was “saddened” and “shocked” by the attack, which French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault calls “despicable and cowardly” in a statement.
Washington says it “stands in solidarity” with Turkey in combating “the common threat of terrorism.”
US State Department spokesman John Kirby says the attack is the latest in a series of what he describes as “indefensible violence targeting innocent people” throughout Turkey.
Kirby says in a statement that “these acts of terrorism only reinforce our determination to support all those across the region working to promote peace and reconciliation.”
— AP, AFP contributed to this report.
Netanyahu: Working with Turkey to determine if attack targeted Israelis
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is speaking to the Israeli press after the suicide bombing in Istanbul and confirms two Israelis were killed.
He says Israeli officials are in contact with Turkish government officials in the wake of Saturday’s suicide bombing and are trying to determine whether the attack was directed at Israelis.
He says an IDF plane and a Magen David Adom plane have been dispatched to Istanbul to bring the Israeli victims home.
“There is information that this is an attack of an Islamic State terrorist,” he says, “but it’s preliminary information.”
Simha Damri named as Israeli killed in Istanbul bombing
The name of one of the Israeli victims of the Istanbul suicide bombing is released: Simha Damri, a woman in her 60s from Dimona.
She and her husband, Avi, were taking part in a culinary tour of Istanbul.
The other victims have not yet been named.
Rivlin offers condolences to victims of ‘horrific’ Istanbul attack
President Reuven Rivlin offers condolences to the victims of Saturday’s Istanbul suicide bombing.
“The heart aches for the victims who lost their lives in the horrific terrorist bombing in the heart of Istanbul. We send our condolences to the families in mourning, pray for the well-being of the injured and hope for their swift return to Israel,” he says in a statement.
“More and more innocent people are losing their lives in the shadow of the insatiable terrorism and extremism which plagues the world,” he says. “May the hands of the search and rescue teams be strengthened, along with the representatives of the Foreign Ministry in Israel and in Turkey, in their efforts to bring relief and information to the worried families.”
Magen David Adom plane departs for Istanbul
A Magen David Adom relief mission has taken off for Istanbul to help the victims of today’s bombing, and the organization says two others will also take part in the mission. An IDF plane will also be dispatched.
— MAGEN DAVID ADOM (@Mdais) March 19, 2016
— MAGEN DAVID ADOM (@Mdais) March 19, 2016
Senior Turkish official extends condolences to Israeli victims
Senior Turkish official tells Channel 2 he extends his condolences to the families of the Istanbul bombing.
“I am wrapped in sorrow and anger,” he says. The victims are “friends and lovers of Istanbul.”
Heart of Istanbul empty after attack
A British diplomat shares a photo from Istanbul’s Taksim Square this evening following today’s attack. Usually packed with shoppers, tourists and locals alike, the plaza situated at the far end of Istiklal Boulevard from the attack appears empty.
— Leigh Turner (@LeighTurnerFCO) March 19, 2016
Waiter describes ‘carnage’ at scene of Istanbul attack
A waiter working in a nearby restaurant told AFP he heard “a loud explosion.”
“When I came out, people were running in every direction, but I ran towards the blast site to see what happened,” said the waiter who gave just his first name Mustafa.
He described scenes of “carnage” with “people lying all about”.
Police sealed off the street in the heart of the European side of Istanbul for several hours after the attack.
Deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus was among the first senior officials to react, telling reporters he expected “unqualified support from those who call themselves Turkey’s friends” — apparently referencing recent criticism in Europe of hardline President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
‘We won’t get used to this,’ defiant Istanbul shopkeepers say
Residents of Istanbul have laid flowers at the site of today’s bombing and shopkeepers from the busy commercial thoroughfare put up signs saying: “We aren’t afraid. We’re here. We won’t get used to this.”
— K.OrmanlarıSavunması (@kuzeyormanlari) March 19, 2016
Istanbul bombing suspect arrested twice for IS connection
The suspected suicide bomber from today’s attack in Istanbul was reportedly arrested twice before by Turkish authorities for alleged allegiance to the Islamic State and was on a terror watch list.
Turkish officials tell Reuters that the bomber likely tried to detonate the explosives in a more crowded location. Unnamed officials told an Israeli reporter that Israelis were unlikely to have been the intended target.
“The attacker detonated the bomb before reaching the targeted point because they were scared of the police,” the official said, declining to be named because the investigation is ongoing.
Savas Yildiz reportedly flew to Syria in May of last year, following suspected involvement in a string of attacks in Turkey, and returned to the country in October.
Turkish security put out a dragnet for Yildiz in October, believing he and three other IS operatives entered Turkey from Syria in order to carry out terror attacks, the Turkish Daily Sabah paper reported at the time.
Turkish authorities identified him by a body part found at the scene, a local reporter said.
— Aylina Kılıç (@AylinaKilic) March 19, 2016
IDF declines comment on plane sent to Turkey
The IDF declines to comment on its dispatching of a plane to Turkey in the wake of today’s bombing in Istanbul.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at press conference earlier this evening that he ordered the dispatch of two planes “one from MDA and one from the IDF – in order to bring them, and the deceased, of course, back to Israel.”
Netanyahu says no evidence attack was targeted at Israelis
Prime Minister Netanyahu says he has no evidence that the suicide bombing in central Istanbul was specifically targeted to hit Israelis.
“We don’t have any confirmation that the attack targeted Israelis,” Netanyahu tells reporters.
He adds that on Sunday Israel will update its travel advice for Turkey, which hundreds of thousands of Israelis visit each year.
Ya’alon says attack ‘proves need for cooperation’ in war on terror
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says the Istanbul terror attack proves once again that countries need to cooperate in the war on terrorism.
“Terror in the Middle East is relentless and sends tentacles to every corner of the region and beyond it. The terror attack in Istanbul is another proof of the important need to cooperate broadly and deeply to strike at this terrorism that has become all-engulfing and constitute a very significant threat against the West and its citizens,” Ya’alon says.
IDF tweets condolences to victims of Turkey attack
The official IDF Twitter account tweets its empathy to the victims of the terror attack in Istanbul.
Terror has no borders. Our thoughts are w/ the injured & the families who lost loved ones in todays attack in Turkey pic.twitter.com/tJBMWNdixf
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) March 19, 2016
IDF says ‘prepared’ to send jet with medical teams
After earlier declining to comment on sending a plane to Turkey, the Israeli army issued the following response:
“The IDF is prepared to send an Israeli Air Force plane and on it, medical teams and representatives of the Home Front Command to return the casualties injured in the terror attack in Turkey.
The final decision will be reached further down the line.”
— Judah Ari Gross
Turkish PM to Netanyahu: Condolences to families of Israeli victims
Turkish President Ahmet Davutoglu reportedly sent a letter of condolences to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following today’s attack in Istanbul that left at least three Israelis dead and 11 injured.
“Today’s attack in Istanbul has shown us once again that the international community as a whole should act in a resolute manner against the ignoble objectives of terrorist organizations,” Davutoglu says, according to the text of the letter provided by Netanyahu’s office.
“I would like to convey my condolences to the families of the Israeli citizens who lost their lives in the heinous attack which happened in Istanbul and to the people of Israel, and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded,” Davutoglu writes.
Watch: PM speaks of need for cooperation in war on terror
Netanyahu speaks about the travel warning to Turkey and the need for cooperation in fighting Islamist terrorism across the globe.
Two dual American-Israeli citizens among Istanbul dead
The White House says that two of the victims of the Istanbul bombing were American citizens, condemning “in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of those killed, and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured,” National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price says in a statement.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed the two Americans killed were also Israeli citizens.
ZAKA delegation leaves for Turkey
Israeli emergency response and rescue service ZAKA says it has sent a delegation to Turkey to assist victims of today’s suicide attack in Istanbul.
The delegation left from Ben Gurion Airport to Turkey where they will be joined by local rescue teams.
Mati Goldstein, ZAKA’s international unit commander, says five volunteers are on their way to Turkey. “ZAKA has extensive experience in the international arena and we pray that the bodies will be released soon to be buried in Israel and the wounded transferred to Israel for medical treatment,” he says.
ZAKA chairman, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, adds: “ZAKA has extensive experience on the international level, with delegations of ZAKA attending major natural disasters and terrorist attacks around the world. ZAKA has also helped Turkey previously at a major attack and returned to Israel the Israelis who were killed. We are in contact with the Jewish community in Turkey to help in any mission required.”
Turkish deputy PM tweets condolences to Israel, Iran
Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Mehmet Simsek, tweets condolences to Israel, as well as Iran; an Iranian national was among the dead in the terror attack.
— Mehmet Simsek (@memetsimsek) March 19, 2016
Istanbul Jews reportedly got warning of terror threats this week
The Jewish community in Istanbul reportedly received warnings of potential terror attacks.
The city’s Great Synagogue was forced to evacuate this morning during Sabbath morning prayers after news of the bombing, which took place around 11 a.m., Makor Rishon reporter Zvika Klein says.
“A few days ago the Jewish community was updated that apparently there would be a terror attack and that we should take precautions,” a member of the community tells the NRG website. “There were warnings as such.”
Magen David Adom team lands in Turkey
A Magen David Adom plane that took off for Istanbul a few hours ago has landed and will provide emergency medical care for the Israeli victims of today’s terror attack, and help bring them back home.
Interfaith group to give $1000 to Turkey terror victims’ families
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a philanthropic interfaith organization, announces that it will give a grant of $1000 to the families of victims of today’s terror attack in Istanbul.
The IFCJ says the grant is meant to “assist the families of the casualties deal with unexpected expenses involved in the injury, including loss of days of work, travel, sleeping arrangements and the like.”
The IFCJ has given a similar grant to each family hurt in a recent wave of terror attacks in Israel.
Magen David Adom team meets Red Crescent medics
A Magen David Adom team in Istanbul meets their Red Crescent counterparts upon landing in Turkey.
— MAGEN DAVID ADOM (@Mdais) March 19, 2016
MDA rescuers meet Israeli injured in Istanbul blast
A delegation of doctors and paramedics from the Magen David Adom rescue service has posted a video of a meeting with an Israeli wounded in Saturday’s suicide terror bombing in Istanbul.
In the video, the MDA crew has a poignant exchange with the injured woman, who appears to be Pnina Greenfield.
“You’re happy to hear Hebrew? So we’re here,” says one MDA staffer.
“Other than your leg, everything’s okay?” asks a doctor.
“Other than the heart, everything’s okay. We lost three friends,” the injured Israeli answers.
Suspected Istanbul bomber’s father arrested
Turkish authorities arrest the father of the suspected Istanbul bomber Savas Yildiz.
Yildiz is believed to be the suicide terrorist who detonated himself on an Istanbul pedestrian boardwalk Saturday, killing three Israelis, an Iranian and at least one more person, and wounding as many as 36 others.
Turkish media say Yildiz’s father provided authorities with a blood sample to compare to blood collected from the scene of the explosion, which will be used to confirm Yildiz’s presence at the scene of the attack.
Yildiz was responsible for at least two previous terror attacks on Turkish soil, authorities say, including an attack in Adana last year. He is believed to have fled to Syria to join the ranks of Islamic State after that attack, and may have returned to Turkey at IS’s behest to carry out Saturday’s bombing.