"The U.S. warned the Turkish authorities some two
months ago that terrorists could strike at Israeli
or American targets in the country, the Saudi
newspaper al-Watan reported on Sunday. The report
also said that the U.S. warned the authoritiesthat members of an Islamic extremist group had
crossed into Turkey from either Iran or Iraq.
Israel's consul-general to Turkey, Amira Arnon said Sunday that the Jewish community there had recently
received non-specific warnings of a possible attack
and had beefed up security around the synagogues.
The reports come a day after 23 people were killed and
hundreds wounded in blasts at two synagogues in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
The French news agency, AFP, quoted Arnon as
saying, "this toll is a tragic pointer for the
future of Jewish and Muslim relations in
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his cabinet on
Sunday morning that the Israeli government has
every confidence in the Turkish authorities to
catch those behind Saturday's bomb attacks.
Sharon told his ministers that the bombings
showed that "terrorism knows no bounds". He
opened the weekly cabinet meeting with a
statement expressing Israel's condolences "to
the families of those slain, Jews and Muslims -
members of all faiths - in the despicable
terror attack yesterday [Saturday] in
"We saw yesterday yet again that terrorism knows
no bounds. Terrorism doesn't discriminate by
religion or blood. The aim of terrorism is one,
to sow fear and terror through the slaying of
innocent people," Sharon said.
"The government of Israel has full confidence
the Turkish security and legal authorities will
know how to capture those responsible for the
despicable murder and bring them to justice,"
A Turkish television station and newspaper
reported on Sunday that local police had
arrested three suspects in connection with the
The Hurriyet newspaper identified the suspects
as two men and a woman. Television station NTV,
however, reported that two of the suspected
were women, both of whom wore traditional
Muslim headscarves, which is quite uncommon in
the mostly secular Muslim state.
Israeli security officials meanwhile arrived in
Turkey late Saturday night and were examining
the sites of the double bombing.
The Israeli team will assist local investigators
and will also advise other Israeli and Jewish
institutions in the country on security
Israeli security officials believe that
Al-Qaida, or some affiliated Islamic extremist
group, was responsible for the attacks.
Hezbollah is not believed to be behind the
Al-Qaida is the main suspected, despite a claim
by a militant Turkish Islamic group, widely
believed to be backed by Iran, that it was
responsible for the blasts.
"An attack of this scope," a senior Israeli
security official told Haaretz, "was apparently
planned by a large international terror
organization... We are talking about Al-Qaida,
or something similar to it. Local extremists in
Turkey also probably contributed to the
Turkish officials also said Al-Qaida might have
had a hand in the attacks. "It is clear that
this is a terrorist event with international
links," Foreign Minister Gul said. Turkish
Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu also said
that he could not rule out an Al-Qaida link to
According to the Jewish Agency, six of those
killed in the blasts - including an
eight-year-old girl - and 80 of those injured
have been identified as Jews. The explosions
went off at around 9:30 A.M. on Saturday
Among the dead are a security guard who stood in
front of one of the synagogues, identified as
Yoel Cohen Ulcer, 19, and a police officer. The
Jewish Agency identified the Jews who were
killed at the Beth Israel synagogue as Ulcer;
Anet Rubinstein, 8, and her grandmother, Anna
Rubinstein, 85; Beto Avraham Varol, about 45;
and Yona Romano, about 55. Berta Ozdogan, 35,
who Army Radio reported was four months
pregnant, was killed in the blast at the Neve
The Jewish victims of the attack will be laid to
rest on Tuesday.
Turkish police said the explosive-laden vehicles
used in the attacks were not driven by suicide
bombers, but Gul later said he believed the
attacks were the work of suicide bombers.
In a telephone call to the Anatolia news agency,
a caller claiming to be from the Great Eastern
Islamic Raiders' Front said the militant group
was responsible for the attacks, and promised
more. The caller said "the attacks would
continue in the future and the reason was that
to prevent the oppression against Muslims,"
Police have accused the group, also known as
IBDA-C, for a bombing attack which injured 10
people in downtown Istanbul on December 31,
2000. However, no one has claimed
responsibility for that attack.
Images recorded by surveillance cameras
positioned at the Neve Shalom synagogue show an
individual parking a red car outside the
synagogue and then leaving the area, Israel
Radio reported. According to Turkish media, the
car exploded shortly afterward.
One explosion went off outside the Neve Shalom
synagogue, the city's largest. The other
severely damaged the Beth Israel synagogue in
the affluent district of Sisli, 5 kilometers
away, where members of the city's tiny Jewish
Twisted metals, shattered windows and debris
from partly collapsed synagogues and nearby
buildings filled the streets. The scent of
smoke and burned bodies filled the air.
Television footage showed medical teams carrying
away several people, some with bloodied or
charred faces. Private NTV television showed
the twisted wreckage of a car and a huge crater
in front of the Neve Shalom synagogue.
Sadettin Gul, an eyewitness, said, "It was like
a war zone."
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan vowed to
avenge the attacks. "I condemn this act as an
act of terror against humanity," Erdogan told
reporters on an official visit to northern
The Neve Shalom synagogue is the most important
spiritual center for Istanbul's 20,000 Jews. In
1986, gunmen, believed to be Palestinians,
attacked the synagogue, killing 22 worshippers
and wounding six during a Sabbath service.
Jewish sites have been targeted in recent
attacks blamed on militants linked to Osama bin
Laden's Al-Qaida - notably in Casablanca,
Morocco, in May and a Tunisian synagogue bombed
in April 2002, that killed 20 people, mainly