At least 9 Israelis hurt in deadly Istanbul suicide bombing

Andrew Tobin

Emergency services inspecting the area following a suicide bombing in a major shopping and tourist district in the central part of Istanbul, Turkey, March 19, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Burak Kara/Getty Images)

Emergency services inspecting the area following a suicide bombing in a major shopping and tourist district in the central part of Istanbul, Turkey, March 19, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Burak Kara/Getty Images)

(JTA) — At least nine Israelis were among dozens wounded in a suicide bombing of a main shopping center in Istanbul, the Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed.

Four people were killed in the blast, in addition to the bomber, Istanbul’s governor said, and the Foreign Ministry was investigating unconfirmed reports that two Israelis were among the dead.

Turkey’s health minister said 36 people were wounded, seven of them seriously. Mehmet Muezzinoglu said 12 of the wounded were foreign nationals.

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 stores, galleries, restaurants and cultural venues.

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Besides the wounded, 12 Israelis in the country had yet to contact Israeli authorities, and the Foreign Ministry was considering sending an airplane to bring the injured Israelis home, Israel radio reported.

“This is a suicide attack, a terrorist attack,” the city’s governor, Vasip Sahin, told reporters at the scene.

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

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A wounded Israeli, Naami Peled, spoke to Hebrew-language media from the hospital after the attack. Israeli tour guide David Cailfa 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.

The wounded Israelis were apparently part of a 14-member group Califa was leading on a culinary tour of Turkey.

The explosion comes after two recent suicide bombings in Ankara. Thirty-seven people were killed and 125 wounded Sunday in a suicide car bombing in the capital. Less than a month earlier, a car bomb attack in central Ankara killed 29 people. Kurdish militants claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Israeli embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul are following the events, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told Haaretz, adding that the ministry is on emergency footing and a situation room will convene in the afternoon.

Turkey had heightened security in Ankara and Istanbul in the run-up to a Kurdish spring festival of Newroz on March 21, which Kurds in Turkey traditionally use to assert their ethnic identity and demand greater rights.

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