Netanyahu: Israel working to discern whether Istanbul bomber targeted Israelis

Netanyahu's comments followed reports Monday in the Turkish media indicating that the bomber shadowed the Israeli tour group after they left their hotel.

March 21, 2016 19:20
1 minute read.
Police forensic experts inspect the area after a suicide bombing in Istanbul

Police forensic experts inspect the area after a suicide bombing in a major shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul. (photo credit: REUTERS)

It is still not clear whether Saturday’s suicide attack in Istanbul specifically targeted Israelis, and Israel’s intelligence agencies are looking into the matter, Prime Minist er Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

Netanyahu’s comments followed reports on Monday in the Turkish media indicating that the bomber – identified as a Turkish citizen, Mehmet Ozturk, affiliated with Islamic State – shadowed the Israeli tour group from the time they left their hotel. Three Israelis were killed, and 10 wounded, in the attack that also killed an Iranian national and wounded more than two dozen others.

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Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt posted on his Twitter account Monday that the bomber followed the Israelis, who were on a culinary tour, from their hotel and then “ lurked outside” the restaurant where they had breakfast, approached them when they left and detonated the bomb.

Initially, on Saturday night, Netanyahu said Israel had no information that Israelis were targeted in particular in the attack.

Israel’s consul-general in Istanbul Shai Cohen said in an Army Radio interview that despite the media reports it was “too early” to make assessments regarding the attacker’s target. He said the Turks are seriously investigating the matter, and that Israel is waiting to hear the results.

Regarding whether the tragedy could be a springboard toward more rapid reconciliation between Israel and Turkey, Cohen said the attack “only illustrates the common interests” of the two countries.

Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold, who is the highest- level Israeli official to visit Turkey in five years, said in Istanbul that he wanted to “thank the Turkish authorities who did everything to help the Israeli families who came here and help us transfer those hurt back to Israel by easing the bureaucracy.”

He also thanked the Turkish authorities for the readiness he said they expressed to “act with Israel against the common enemy – extremist terrorism that is hitting us all.”

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote a letter of condolence to President Reuven Rivlin, saying the attack illustrated, again, the “absolute necessity for the international community to conduct a joint, united and determined fight against terrorism, which targets the whole of humanity and fundamental human values and constitutes a crime against humanity.”

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