Daesh bomber 'followed Israelis from Istanbul hotel'

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 21, 2016
The scene in Istanbul after the attack

The scene in Istanbul after the attack

It was originally thought that the suicide bombing in Istanbul on Saturday, which left four tourists dead, three of them Israeli and one Iranian, was another attack targeting Turkey’s tourism industry and the Israelis were random victims.

Fresh reports in the Turkish media, however, apparently based on CCTV footage, claim that the bomber – who, according to Ankara, was a Daesh recruit - shadowed the group of Israeli foodies from their hotel to the restaurant where he blew himself up.

If the reports are accurate, this will have been the first Daesh attack specifically aimed at an Israeli target.

Simcha Damri, Avraham Goldman and Jonathan Shur were the three Israelis killed on the spot. Their bodies were returned home by Israeli Air Force transport on Sunday night. Another 11 Israelis - out of 36 casualties in total - were wounded in the attack and hospitalised in Istanbul.

Despite the ongoing friction between Israel and Turkey, which has seen the level of diplomatic relations downgraded and a constant barrage of criticism from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the cooperation between the two governments in the wake of the attacks was described by both sides as excellent.

In recent months, Israeli tourism in Turkey has picked up, after years in which Israelis kept away. Despite a suicide attack by Daesh in Istanbul two months ago, which left ten German tourists dead, and a series of attacks in the capital Ankara by the Turkish underground PKK, the Israeli National Security Council’s counterterrorism bureau kept its travel warning on Turkey as “potential threat”.

On Sunday, in the wake of the latest attack, it was raised to “concrete threat”. Israeli security officials have recently warned that Daesh would try to attack Israel in the near future but the assumption was that an attack would be carried out by one of the movement’s branches on the Syrian or Egyptian borders.

If the attack in Istanbul was indeed designed to hit Israeli tourists, it would seem that Daesh has reached a similar conclusion to that of Hizbollah - that Israelis abroad are the weak spot in Israel’s security set-up. The 2012 bombing of a bus in Burgas in which five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian driver were killed has been attributed to the Lebanese organisation.

Last updated: 3:30pm, March 21 2016