3 Israelis feared killed, 11 hurt in Istanbul suicide blast


(JTA) — At least two Israelis were killed and 11 injured in a suicide bombing at a main shopping center in Istanbul.

A total of five people, including the bomber, were killed and 36 injured in the blast on the pedestrian boulevard Saturday. Turkish officials identified another of the people killed as an Iranian national.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed two Israelis were killed and said it was possible there was a third Israeli fatality. In televised comments after an emergency meeting, he said officials were investigating if Israelis had been targeted in the bombing, and said intelligence pointed to it being an Islamic State attack.

The Israeli victims were part of a 14-member tour group, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Turkish officials identified the four victims of a terrorist attack in Turkey as three Israelis aged 40 to 70 and a 31-year-old Iranian.

The suicide bomber was identified by Turkish media as Savaz Yildiz, 33, from the Turkish city of Adana. He was reportedly known to Turkish authorities. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing.

Two Israelis injured in the blast were seriously hurt. One was undergoing surgery in an Istanbul hospital, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

The explosion rocked Istiklal Avenue in the heart of the Turkish city, a wide pedestrian boulevard with a historic tram running down the middle and lined with international stores and foreign consulates. Police sealed off the street after the attack and ambulances carried the injured away.

A CCTV camera appears to have captured the blast, and the footage was posted online by the private Dogan news agency.

READ: Three Israeli victims of Istanbul bombing identified by Turkish officials

A wounded Israeli, Naami Peled, spoke to Hebrew-language media from the hospital after the attack. Israeli tour guide David Cailfa, who was apparently leading the group of 14 Israelis around Turkey, confirmed on social media that he had also been hurt.

“To all those dear people who are worried, I am sorry that I cannot answer you,” Califa wrote in Hebrew on Facebook. “Naama and I are lightly wounded and being treated. The rest of the group members are dispersed among four hospitals. Please pray with us for their well being.”

A spokesman for the Joint Arab List said that six Israeli Arabs were wounded in the attack. Turkish sources told Haaretz that Israeli Arabs were among the wounded.

A Magen David Adom emergency service delegation left Saturday evening Israel time for Istanbul to bring the wounded home. Members of the Israeli consulate in Ankara were dispatched to visit the wounded Israelis, who were being treated at five different hospitals.

The Foreign Ministry said it has yet to make contact with six Israelis thought to have been at the site of the attack.

Ministry Director-General Dore Gold, who is in the United States for the annual AIPAC conference, will leave early to travel to Istanbul on Sunday afternoon in coordination with the Turkish government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to ask Turkey to condemn a tweet by a senior official in its ruling party, who reportedly expressed hope that the Israelis hurt in the attack would die. She has reportedly been fired.

The explosion comes after two recent suicide bombings in the capital, Ankara, which killed a total of 66 people. Thirty-seven people were killed and 125 wounded Sunday in a suicide car bombing in Ankara. On Feb. 17, a car bomb attack in central Ankara killed 29 people. PKK militants claimed responsibility for both attacks.

And Islamic State was blamed for a suicide bombing in Istanbul in January that killed 12 German tourists.

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