6 killed, dozens hurt as major blast rocks Istanbul; Erdogan condemns ‘vile attack’
Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem checking if any Israelis wounded; tourists from Israel describe chaos on popular pedestrian thoroughfare
ISTANBUL — A bomb rocked a major pedestrian avenue in the heart of Istanbul on Sunday, killing six people, wounding several dozen and sending people fleeing the fiery explosion.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the “vile attack” and said authorities were “working to find the perpetrators,” who he vowed would be punished.
“It might be wrong if we say for sure that this is terror but according to first signs… there is a smell of terror there,” Erdogan told a televised press conference.
Erdogan said six people were killed. Vice President Fuat Oktay later updated the wounded toll to 81, with two in serious condition, and also said it appeared to be a terrorist attack.
A video posted online showed flames and a loud bang, as pedestrians turned and ran away. Other footage showed ambulances, fire trucks and police at the scene. Social media users said shops were shuttered and the avenue closed down.
Turkey’s media watchdog imposed a temporary ban on reporting on the explosion — a move that prevents broadcasters from showing videos of the moment of the blast or its aftermath. The Supreme Council of Radio and Television has imposed similar bans in the past, following attacks and accidents.
Access to some content on Twitter and other social media sites, such as videos, was limited.
The moment of the explosion in the Istiklal Street, you can see the fire far in the middle and hear the noise in this video pic.twitter.com/qFt4QfG9e7
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) November 13, 2022
Turkish media outlets released an image taken from security camera footage of a woman suspected of having placed an explosive device.
????| #Taksim'de patlamaya neden olan paketi koyan 1.65 boyunda bir kadın olduğu belirlendi.
????| Şüpheli kadının fotoğrafı ortaya çıktı…
— Odatv (@odatv) November 13, 2022
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was in touch with the consulate in Istanbul to establish if there were any Israelis harmed in the incident.
An unnamed security source was later quoted by Hebrew media recommending that Israelis in Istanbul stay in their hotels.
In June, Israel called on its citizens in Istanbul to leave the city over an alleged Iranian attack plot, for which numerous suspects were arrested by Turkish authorities. There was no indication that Sunday’s incident was targeting Israelis.
An Israeli woman who witnessed the blast said it occurred outside a restaurant that is popular with tourists from Israel.
“It was a terrible explosion. It’s impossible to describe what is going on there,” the woman, who was identified only by her first name Osnat, told Channel 12 news.
The woman said she was with her daughters at the time.
Another Israeli who was in the area told the network that he was some 150 meters away from the site of the blast.
“My back hurts from the shock that hit me. I felt a real boom and everything was smoke. People were running amok,” Avi Ben Yishai was quoted as saying.
Benny Lam, a former Israeli soccer coach and player, said he was also in the area.
“Today we arrived in Istanbul and went to a restaurant from the airport, and we sat there an hour. When we got up, we heard a blast 30-40 meters from us. If we had remained seated, we would’ve been among the wounded,” he said.
“We saw people flying in the air,” Lam added.
Turkey was hit by a string of bombings between 2015 and 2017 that left more than 500 civilians and security personnel dead. Some of the attacks were perpetrated by the Islamic State jihadist group, including a 2016 suicide bombing in which three Israelis were killed.
Other attacks were executed by Kurdish militants who have led a decadeslong insurgency against the Turkish state for increased autonomy or independence.