Three Israelis were killed Saturday in a suicide bombing on a major shopping street in Istanbul. At least one other person, an Iranian national, was also killed.
Eleven Israelis are wounded, two severely so, out of a total of 36 wounded victims. Another six Israelis are still unaccounted for.
Deputy health minister Ahmet Baha Otuken had earlier confirmed that Simha Demri was among the four victims of the blast in which 36 people were injured.The attack took place on Istiklal Caddesi, a busy pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops and cafes that is immensely popular with both tourists and locals.
Israel on Saturday sent two planes to Turkey to bring home its wounded citizens, according to Magen David Adom.
“The aim of the operation is to repatriate wounded Israelis as fast as possible,” an MDA spokesperson said.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion but pro-government newspapers blamed it on ISIS, which has been accused of several attacks in Turkey in recent months, including a suicide bombing near the Blue Mosque in January, in which 12 German tourists were killed.
ISIS was also blamed for an attack that left 103 people dead at a peace rally in Ankara in October.
More recently, Kurdish rebels have also staged suicide attacks, striking the capital twice over the past month, killing dozens of people.
Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has released a statement about today’s (Saturday) attack in Istanbul, in which three Israelis were killed and another 11 wounded.
Speaking from the Foreign Ministry’s situation room, Netanyahu said, “During the day I received updates about what happened in Istanbul. We can say with certainty that, sadly, two Israeli citizens were killed. It could be that there is a third victim. The two families have been updated; I send them condolences on behalf of the entire Jewish people.
“There are approximately eleven people who were wounded, the degree of their injuries varies, and we are dealing with them. I directed the dispatch of two planes – one from MDA and one from the IDF – in order to bring them, and the deceased, of course, back to Israel.
“We are in contact with the Turkish authorities. I asked that our presence be increased. This evening there will be approximately 15 of our representatives in Istanbul; the Foreign Ministry Director General is on his way there. We are in contact with the Turkish government. The Foreign Ministry Director General spoke with his Turkish counterpart and, naturally, we are trying to clarify things in the intelligence sphere. We currently have no confirmation that this terrorist incident was directed at Israelis.
“We know that there are those who have yet to make contact; we are trying to locate them. At the moment it does not seem that they were part of this event but things will certainly become clearer later on. Foreign Ministry personnel, including those here in the situation room, are working constantly and will work around the clock in order to bring the people back to Israel and in order to give full support at this difficult time. I am certain that all Israelis join me in the hope for recovery for the wounded and in expressing condolences to the families of those who were murdered.”
AFP contributed to this report