Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon may have recognized the Israelis killed and injured in the Istanbul suicide bombing attack as victims of terror, but his ministry has not.
Ya’alon and other politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have cast the Saturday attack as identical in nature to the terrorism that has rocked Israel for decades.
“The State of Israel is fighting terror that strives to harm its citizens, not only within its borders but everywhere,” Ya’alon said a few hours after the attack.
That message, however, appears to be more rhetorical than practical, as the three Israelis killed and 11 injured have not been granted the special status awarded to other Israeli victims of terror, the Defense Ministry announced Tuesday.
Israeli victims who die or are injured in terror attacks either within Israel or abroad are considered “victims of hostilities” by the state, under a law drafted in 1970. Those injured receive special benefits from Israel’s tax authority and compensation from Israel’s social security, as do the families of those who are killed.
At this stage, however, the victims of the Istanbul terror attack are not eligible for those benefits, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
“According to the ‘Victims of Hostilities’ Compensation Law, terror attacks that occur outside the State of Israel will only be recognized if their primary or secondary goal was to harm Israel,” the ministry said.
Turkish police on Sunday identified the bomber as Mehmet Ozturk, 23, an IS member from Gaziantep province who spent two years in Syria before returning to Turkey illegally.
Reports from Turkey indicated that Ozturk had indeed specifically targeted followed the group of Israelis.
However, these initial reports were apparently not sufficiently convincing for Israel, Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting this week.
“The Defense Ministry is in constant contact with the proper authorities. At this point, insufficient information has been gathered to indicate the goals of the attack,” the ministry said.
Some initial speculation also indicated the Israeli group, visiting Turkey on a culinary tour, had been the victims of bad timing when they crossed paths with a suicide bomber Saturday.
The Turkish T24 news site reported that Ozturk followed the tour group from their hotel in the Besiktas neighborhood, located near Taksim Square, to the restaurant on Istiklal Avenue where they ate breakfast on Saturday morning. When the group exited, the bomber blew himself up, the report said.
Simha Dimri, 59, Avraham Goldman, 70, and Yonathan Suher, 40, were killed in the bombing, as was an Iranian man.
Suher and Goldman were also named as United States citizens by the State Department.
The bodies of the Israelis fatalities were flown home Sunday, along with the 11 wounded, amid increased cooperation between Israeli and Turkish authorities.