Israeli wounded in Istanbul: Bomber ‘just exploded on us’

Netanyahu said to be boosting personnel at consulate to cope with aftermath of suicide attack; 12 foreign nationals among dozens hurt

Turkish police, forensics and emergency services work at the scene of an explosion on the pedestrian Istiklal Street in Istanbul on March 19, 2016.
Turkish police, forensics and emergency services work at the scene of an explosion on the pedestrian Istiklal Street in Istanbul on March 19, 2016. (AFP/ILHAS NEWS AGENCY)

One of three Israelis wounded in Saturday’s deadly suicide attack in Istanbul said that she was with a group of tourists on the main shopping strip when the bomber “just exploded on us.”

The bombing killed four people, Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said. Turkish Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu later confirmed that 36 people were wounded in the bombing, seven of them seriously. He said 12 of the wounded were foreign nationals.

Naama Peled said that she was on a 14-strong culinary trip to Turkey when the attack occurred.

“We were a group of Israelis on a tour; he just exploded on us,” Peled told the Hebrew-language Walla website. “I am now going into the operating theater,” she said. “I was the most lightly wounded [of the Israelis],” she added.

“We were sitting in a restaurant and then the bomber came in and there was an explosion,” Peled told the Ynet news website.

“I saw the terrorist with my own eyes. It is hard for me to talk. I don’t know what happened to everyone and there are a lot of friends that I cannot find,” she said.

“This is a suicide attack, a terrorist attack,” Sahin told reporters at the scene, saying the bomber was also killed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered increased personnel at the consulate in Istanbul to deal with the aftermath from the attack, the Maariv newspaper reported.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said the embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul were monitoring events. Nearby Turkey has remained a popular destination for Israeli tourists, despite a years-long freeze in ties between the two countries.

“It was one loud explosion,” said Muhammed Fatur, a Syrian who works at a butcher shop near the site of the explosion. “Police came to the scene and sealed off the area.”

The bomb exploded near a shopping mall, but Sahin said the intended target was a local authority building in the Beyoglu neighbourhood, where Istiklal Caddesi is situated.

The street, which adjoins Taksim Square in the European part of the city, was evacuated after the attack, an AFP journalist at the scene said. Armed police sealed off the area while a police helicopter hovered overhead.

CCTV footage published online by Dogan news agency appeared to show the moment of the blast with a fireball erupting near a handful of passersby, sending them rushing for cover.

Television images showed several ambulances ferrying the injured to hospital.

Police sealed off the area and a forensic team was at the scene.

Turkey is on edge following two recent suicide bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, which were claimed by a Kurdish militant group, that is an off-shoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

The most recent attack came on March 13, when a suicide car bomb ripped through a busy square in central Ankara, killing 37 people and wounding 125 others.

Turkey had heightened security in Ankara and Istanbul in the run up to a Kurdish spring festival on March 21.

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