IDF medical and rescue teams landed in Turkey Sunday in order to treat several Israelis injured Saturday in a terrorist attack in Istanbul, and transport the wounded back to their home country.
Three Israelis were killed and eleven more were hurt in the bombing, which took place at 11 a.m. Saturday and targeted Istiklal Caddesi, a bustling two-kilometer-long pedestrian street usually thronged with shoppers, tourists and buskers but which was still relatively quiet when the bomber struck.
The Israelis killed in Istanbul were identified as Yonathan Suher, 40, Simha Dimri, 60, and Avraham Goldman, 69. Suher and Goldman were also named as US citizens by the State Department.
Turkish medical officials said that among the Israeli wounded, two were in critical condition, two in moderate condition and six were lightly injured. The condition of one more injured Israeli was not immediately clear.
“IDF doctors will in a few minutes receive the wounded Israelis for further treatment ahead of transporting them to Israel,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday morning. “Israeli diplomats in Turkey worked all night to prepare the ground for the arrival of the IDF teams, treat the wounded, and coordinate with the authorities in Turkey.”
Five of the Israelis who were lightly wounded in the attack were already returned to Israel in two flights overnight Sunday. The IDF teams that arrived in Istanbul Sunday were set to bring back the remaining Israelis who were injured in the attack. The Israeli Air Force plane is scheduled to leave Istanbul by Sunday afternoon.
The Israeli victims were part of a 14-member group on a culinary tour of Turkey.
The Magen David Adom rescue service, which sent teams to Turkey to help coordinate the return of the wounded Israelis, said the return of the seriously wounded Israelis was delayed in order to enable them to recover enough to travel.
The attack was the sixth major terror bombing in Turkey since July. Over 200 people have been killed in the terror wave. Four of the attacks, including Saturday’s, have been blamed on the Islamic State group, while Kurdish separatists have been accused of carrying out the others.
The families of Dimri, Suher, and Goldman were reportedly flown to Istanbul late Saturday, where officials took them to identify the bodies of their family members.
Dimri, a retired kindergarten teacher and grandmother from the southern city of Dimona, was survived by her husband, Avi, who was moderately wounded in the attack, as well as three sons, a daughter and several grandchildren.
Dimri’s sons Nadav and Ben also flew to Istanbul late Saturday, joining a Magen David Adom delegation so they could be at their father’s side as he recuperates in an Istanbul hospital.
Suher, a resident of Tel Aviv, was in Istanbul to celebrate his 40th birthday. His wife, Inbal, was among the two Israelis critically wounded in the attack. He was survived by two children.
Information about Goldman, the third victim, was not immediately available. He was a resident of Ramat Hasharon, near Tel Aviv.
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.
In televised comments after an emergency meeting in Jerusalem Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said officials were investigating whether Israelis had been specifically targeted in the bombing, and said intelligence pointed to it having been an Islamic State attack.
“We don’t have any confirmation that the attack targeted Israelis,” he told reporters.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called an emergency security meeting in Istanbul after the attack and condemned the suicide bombing as “inhumane.”
Contrary to Netanyahu’s assessments, some Turkish officials said they believed a Kurdish organization, not the Islamic State, was behind the deadly attack.
The US embassy in Turkey said on Twitter it was “saddened” and “shocked” by the attack. Washington said it “stands in solidarity” with Turkey in combating “the common threat of terrorism.”
US State Department spokesman John Kirby said the attack is the latest in a series of what he described as “indefensible violence targeting innocent people” throughout Turkey.
Kirby said 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.”
Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.