Three Israeli tourists narrowly survived Sunday’s horrific bomb attack in central Istanbul, with one saying she was just metres from the explosion.
Tourist Ofra Adi said: “I was sitting outside and suddenly heard an explosion and people screaming… I didn’t realise what was happening as there was dust and smoke everywhere. I then saw three people laying on the sidewalk… I only realised it was a terror attack afterwards.”
The suspected terror attack, which the Turkish government has blamed on the militant Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), left eight dead including two girls aged nine and 15 respectively. Over 80 were injured.
“I was two metres away from the terrorist. The people who died protected me because they took the hit — I only felt the shockwave,” said Ms Adi.
A further two Israelis — Natali Swissa and Or Atedgi from the coastal city of Ashdod — were visible in some of the initially published photographs of the suspected terrorist.
“We were saved by a miracle, there’s no other way of putting it,” Swissa told the Israeli news site Ynet: “We were exploring Taksim Square, going in and out of shops. It was all pretty mundane. It was very crowded. As we were leaving a shop we heard a huge explosion and saw a very big mushroom cloud. There was smoke everywhere,” she went on.
A preliminary probe by Turkish authorities has led them to suggest that the device used to activate the blast was controlled remotely. They have also said that a woman was recorded seated at a bench for 40 minutes, and exited the area just prior to the explosion.
The PKK which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the US, and the EU, denies any involvement.
Atedgi and Swissa said they ran back to their hotel, where they were shocked to see themselves in the pictures of the suspected terrorist— a Syrian PKK member—being broadcast.
Turkey’s Israeli consul-general Udi Eitam reported that while there were no Israeli casualties, groups of Israelis were close to Sunday’s tragic blast.
“We helped rescue some Israelis from the area. There were some groups of tourists that contacted us. Some are in shock. We’re in contact with them,” Eitam told Ynet, adding that the local Jewish population was assisting in the efforts.
“Volunteers from the Jewish community in Istanbul visited hospitals to try and locate Israeli victims. The authorities were also very responsive and helpful,” he explained.
Security sources advised Israelis to remain in their accommodation for the rest of Sunday, and were also recommended to stay alert on Monday.
Israeli security official says the recommendation to Israelis in Istanbul is to stay at their hotels until the situation is clearer, and to listen to the Turkish authorities.— Lahav Harkov (@LahavHarkov) November 13, 2022
Over the summer Turkish security agents said they had foiled an Iranian-led plan to kidnap Israeli citizens in the city in retaliation to claimed Israeli assassinations of Islamic Republic officials.
Turkey was the first Muslim-majority nation to recognise Israel in March 1949, but their relationship has been a rocky one, with diplomatic ties only being fully normalised in August.
The Muslim majority republic has witnessed a 448 per cent increase in Israeli tourists between January and September this year.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement on Sunday: “On behalf of the Government of Israel, I send my condolences to the people of Türkiye following today’s heinous terrorist attack in Istanbul.
“I also send strength to President @RTErdogan and the Turkish government. Together, we will forcefully fight terror everywhere it rears its head,” he continued.