Israel and Turkey must be united against terrorism, President Reuven Rivlin told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, as he sent the Jewish state’s condolences over twin bombings at a peace rally in Ankara that killed 95 people.
In a letter to his Turkish counterpart, Rivlin said he was “shocked and saddened to learn of the vicious attacks yesterday morning in Ankara, which targeted people seeking peace.”
“On behalf of the people of Israel, I would like to offer our sincere condolences to Your Excellency, to the people of Turkey and to its leaders,” Rivlin said, according to a statement by his office.
“We must stand united in the fight against those who promote the use of violence rather than dialogue and continue to destroy the lives of so many. I believe that you share my hopes for a better and more secure future for all the peoples of our region.”
Thousands of people took to the streets of Ankara on Sunday to denounce Erdogan’s government after what is Turkey’s worst-ever terror attack.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu declared three days of national mourning, with flags flying at half-mast across the country, as questions grew over who could have ordered the Ankara bombings.
Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), one of the groups that called the peace rally, issued a statement claiming the actual toll was far higher at 128, giving the names of 120 victims.
Saturday’s attacks intensified tensions in Turkey ahead of snap elections on November 1 as the military wages an offensive against Islamic State (IS) jihadists and Kurdish militants.
Thousands of demonstrators filled Sihhiye Square in central Ankara, close to the site of the blasts by Ankara’s main train station, with some shouting anti-government slogans.
Several demonstrators blamed Erdogan over the bombings, shouting “Erdogan murderer,” “Government resign!” and “The state will give account.”
Erdogan condemned the “heinous” attack in a statement and cancelled a visit to Turkmenistan, but has yet to speak in public after the bombings.
The premier’s office said 95 people were killed when the bombs exploded just after 10:00 a.m. (07:00 GMT) as leftist and pro-Kurdish activists gathered for the rally outside Ankara’s train station.
It said that 508 people were wounded, with 160 still in hospital and 65 in intensive care in 19 hospitals.
With international concern growing over instability in the key NATO member, US President Barack Obama offered his condolences to Erdogan and solidarity “in the fight against terrorism,” the White House said.
The attacks drove a knife through the heart of normally placid Ankara, which became the capital following the founding of the modern Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
“This could well be Turkey’s 9/11,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute.