The Prime Minister’s Office’s Counter-Terror Bureau raised the alert level on travel to Turkey on Sunday, emphasizing that the country was considered unsafe for Israeli citizens a day after a suicide bombing in Istanbul left 3 Israelis dead and 11 wounded.
In a statement, the PMO said that the bureau had decided to “upgrade its existing travel warning and recommends that the public avoid visiting Turkey.”
In explaining the decision, the statement said that amid a spate of attacks by the Islamic State groups and Kurdish separatists, and notably the bombing Saturday, “it was decided to update the existing travel warning vis-à-vis Turkey from an ongoing potential threat to a basic concrete threat.”
At the same time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was in the front line of a global war on terror, adding that those who failed to condemn terrorist attacks were in effect supporting them. Commenting on Saturday’s suicide bombing, the prime minister said there could be no justification for terrorism.
“Israel is at the forefront of the fight against international terrorism. This fight is primarily military, but no less than that, it is moral,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office. “The key point of the moral struggle against terrorism is clear — terrorism, the murder of innocent people, has no justification anywhere – not in Istanbul, not in the Ivory Coast and not in Jerusalem. Those who do not condemn terrorism support terrorism.”
The bodies of the three Israelis killed in Saturday’s suicide bombing in Istanbul were loaded on to an IDF airplane that took off Sunday afternoon for Israel, along with several wounded in the attack.
Netanyahu praised Israeli officials who worked to assist in the treatment of the wounded and killed Israeli casualties.
“I wish to commend the members of the Foreign Ministry on their dedicated and professional work, both in Istanbul and Jerusalem,” he said.
The victims of Saturday’s bombing were identified as Yonathan Suher, 40, Simha Dimri, 60, and Avraham Goldman, 69. Suher and Goldman were also named as United States citizens by the State Department.
Eleven Israelis were hurt in the bombing on Istiklal Caddesi, a bustling two-kilometer-long pedestrian street usually thronged with shoppers, tourists and buskers. Turkish medical officials said that among the Israeli wounded, two were in critical condition, two were in moderate condition and six were lightly injured. The condition of one more injured Israeli was not immediately clear.
Five were en route to Israel on the IDF plane on Sunday, including one woman who was in critical condition.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed to track down those responsible for the attack.
“We will fight with determination and perseverance until all forms of terrorism are eradicated,” Davutoglu said in a statement Saturday.
Davutoglu also offered his condolences to Netanyahu over the death of the three Israelis.
“I want to express my condolences to the families of Israeli citizens who lost their lives in the despicable attack and to the people of Israel, and I wish the injured a speedy recovery,” Davutoglu said. “The attack shows us again that the international community must fight aggressively against the lowly goals of terrorist organizations.”
In all, at least four people were killed and 36 injured in the attack. A fourth victim killed in the attack was identified by Turkish officials as Iranian national Ali Reza Razmhah.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but pro-government media blamed it on the Islamic State group, which has been accused of several attacks in Turkey including a deadly suicide bombing near the Blue Mosque in January.
The perpetrator of Saturday’s attack was named as Mehmet Öztürk, a suspected Islamic State member.
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.