Attacks on Istanbul synagogues kill 24 (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Yossi Melman, Yoav Stern and Amiram Barkat 11/16/03)
HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE
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At least 24 people were killed and 300 wounded
yesterday morning when two Istanbul synagogues
were bombed in a coordinated attack.
Most of the victims were
Turkish bystanders, while
only six of those killed were
Jews. However, three members
of the Jewish community are
A small Turkish organization,
the Islamic Great Eastern
Raiders Front (known by its Turkish acronym IBDA-C), took
for the blast, saying it was intended "to stop
the oppression of Muslims." But Turkish police
and government officials believe that Al-Qaida
was involved in the attack, deeming it too
sophisticated for the local group to have
carried out unaided. Israel´s intelligence
agencies concur with this assessment.
The attack took place at about 9:30 A.M., when
truck bombs exploded simultaneously outside the
Neve Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues. It is
not yet known whether they were detonated by
suicide bombers or from a distance.
The first bomb went off outside Neve Shalom,
Istanbul´s largest synagogue, killing seven
people, including two worshipers and a
policeman who was guarding the site. More than
350 people were inside celebrating a bar
mitzvah at the time, but most only suffered
shock or light injuries from flying glass. The
brunt of the blast was suffered by security
personnel, passersby and neighbors.
"The truck exploded right at the entrance to the
synagogue," one neighbor said. "That hour is
when commerce begins in the area, which
contains many shall shops. All the shops round
about were completely destroyed, and people who
were there were killed or seriously injured.
Even people 30 meters away were hurt."
The attack pierced a crater as deep as a person
into the pavement outside Neve Shalom, and
nearby streets were covered with charred debris
and shattered cars. A mosque a few doors away
from the synagogue had its windows blown out.
"Muslim, Christian, Jewish - people are people.
Today it´s them, tomorrow it could be me," said
Ismail Yilmaz, a shopkeeper searching for a
missing employee, Rami Kucuk.
A few minutes later, the second bomb exploded at
Beth Israel, about five kilometers away. This
blast, which occurred by the synagogue´s back
entrance, killed 17 people, including five
"One of the worshipers and her granddaughter,
who were coming in to pray at the time, were
killed on the spot, along with a Turkish
guard," related Morris Levy, one of the other
Part of the building, which also contains
apartments, collapsed, and many people were
trapped inside. In addition, several gas
canisters in the building apparently exploded,
resulting in several people being injured by
In total, some 350 people were in Beth Israel at
the time, celebrating the opening of a newly
renovated Jewish school attached to the
synagogue. However, that was fewer people than
usual, since some regulars were attending the
bar mitzvah in Neve Shalom instead.
Moshe Kanafi, the Israeli vice consul in
Istanbul, said that both synagogues are guarded
24 hours a day, with extra security when
services are in progress. But while the guards
check passersby, he said, they cannot check the
passing vehicles - especially in the crowded,
one-way street opposite Neve Shalom, which is
full of shops.
The worshipers killed in the Beth Israel attack
were Beto Avraham Varol, 45; Yoel Cohen Ulcer,
19, who was employed by the Jewish community as
a guard; Yona Romano, 55 (an Italian citizen);
and Anna Rubinstein, 85, and her granddaughter
Anet Rubinstein, 8. The two worshipers killed
in the Neve Shalom attack were Berta Ozdogan,
35, and her husband Ahmet (who is not Jewish).
No date has yet been set for the funerals, but
most will apparently be held on Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom intends to pay a
solidarity visit to Istanbul today. According
to Israeli consul Amira Arnon, no Israelis were
wounded in the blast. (© Copyright 2003 Haaretz. 11/16/03)
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