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May 4, 2016 / 26 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Istanbul’

Israeli-Arab Would-Be ISIS Recruit Sentenced in Jerusalem

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

By Michael Zeff/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – A young Israeli Arab who attempted to join the Islamic State terror organisation was sentenced to a fifteen-month prison term on Tuesday.

Fares Saritah, a 19-year-old resident of the Jerusalem neighborhood Kfar Akeb, pleaded guilty to the charges of “attempting to join an illegal organization and attempting to defect to an enemy state,” referring to the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) and Syria, respectively.

In addition to the fifteen month prison term, Saritah was sentenced to a suspended prison term and a large fine.

“Based on the accused’s own plea and full admission I find him guilty of attempting to join an illegal organization,” said Judge Aharon Farkash in his sentencing.

The joint investigation by the ISA and Israel police revealed that Saritah allegedly convinced his two brothers to join the Islamic State as well, one of whom managed to leave Israel and join the terrorist group in Syria.

According to bill of indictment, in April 2015 Saritah left Israel with his brother and cousin and arrived in Istanbul planning to reach Syria through Turkey, a common pathway for radicalized Muslims attempting to join with the Islamic State.

However Saritah never got past the Istanbul airport, as his passport was expired. He then had to fly to Israel to fix his papers, where upon arrival he was snatched by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA).

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

3 Wounded in Central Istanbul Bus Stop Bombing

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

At least three people were wounded Saturday night after a bomb detonated at a bus stop in the Mecidiyeköy neighborhood of the Şişli district, in central Istanbul. It is one of the more prominent business quarters of Turkey’s largest city.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Earlier in the day, Turkish police discovered a suspicious bag at another bus stop. The security forces deployed a bomb squad robot to safely detonate the bomb within.

The blast came just hours after a ‘credible threat’ alert from the U.S. embassy in Turkey, warning citizens to stay away from tourist sites and crowded areas in Istanbul and Antalya.

The American alert followed a renewed “high concrete threat” warning on Friday by Israel to its citizens. Israel’s National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau urged Israelis to leave Turkey at once, and advised those who were planning to travel to the country to postpone their trips for now.

Emergency response teams sealed off the area as Turkish police and security personnel swarmed in to determine who was behind the bombing.

Hana Levi Julian

Sky News: ISIS Plots ‘Imminent’ Attack on Turkish Jewish Children

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Da’esh (ISIS) terrorists have moved ahead with a plot to attack Jewish children in Turkey, according to a report by Sky News.

Turkish intelligence has warned of an “imminent” attack by the terror group, targeting schools, youth centers and kindergartens. The information was gleaned from six ISIS operatives arrested last week.

In Istanbul, the most likely target is said to be the synagogue in the Beyoglu district, which includes a Jewish school and community center. This synagogue is located close to the site where a suicide bombing by a Da’esh operative took place just 10 days ago, near the popular Taksim tourist area.

Three Israelis and an Iranian national died in that attack and dozens were wounded, including 11 Israelis. It is still not clear whether the bomber was targeting the Israeli tour group that was in the area at the time, or not, but at least one report claims the group was tracked by the bomber from the time they left their hotel.

A similar bombing, albeit on a larger scale was carried out by Da’esh last week in the Belgian capital of Brussels. Two suicide bombers blew up the departure hall at Saventem International Airport and another bomber blew up a metro station close to the headquarters of the European Union. At least 35 people were killed and more than 300 people were wounded in the multi-site attack.

“In light of these circumstances, extraordinary security measures are being taken above and beyond the high alert level already in place by the Turkish police, as well as vigilance within the Jewish community,” an intelligence source told Sky News.

“Undercover and other covert counter-terror measures are being implemented around the clock… This is a more than credible threat,” the source added. “This is an active plot.”

In light of the current threat, Israel has issued a Level 2 terror alert, urging its citizens not to travel to Turkey right now and those who are already there to leave as soon as possible.

Hana Levi Julian

Israel Warns Citizens to Leave Turkey ASAP

Monday, March 28th, 2016

Israel’s National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau (NSCCTB) upgraded its travel warning for Turkey on Monday to that of a “high concrete threat.”

But the threat is not just terrorism, although that is where the current danger lies. Ultimately, there is a greater existential threat beneath.

The counter-terrorism bureau warned Israelis not to travel to the country, and told those who are already there to leave as soon as possible.

“The deadly 19 March 2016 attack in Istanbul, in which a group of Israeli tourists was hit, underscores the threat by Da’esh (ISIS) against tourist targets throughout Turkey and proves high capabilities of carrying out further attacks.

“Terrorist infrastructures in Turkey continue to advance additional attacks against tourist targets – including Israeli tourists – throughout the country,” the warning continued.

Although Da’esh has carried out most of the attacks and the outlawed PKK Kurdistan Workers’ Party terror group has carried out the rest, for Israelis, the Hamas terrorist organization presents an equal threat. The international Hamas headquarters is located in Istanbul, and yet no mention has been made of its existence despite its ongoing pledge to annihilate Israel and her Jewish citizens. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party welcomed Hamas to the country; Erdogan is a passionate supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood which gave birth to Hamas.

This fact stands in stark contrast to Erdogan’s recent vows to “fight terrorist together with Israel,” leaving one to wonder where he really stands.

“In the wake of an NSCCTB assessment of the situation, it has been decided to upgrade the existing travel warning vis-à-vis Turkey from a basic concrete threat to a high concrete threat, and to reiterate our recommendation to the public to avoid visiting the country and – for Israelis currently in Turkey – to leave as soon as possible.”

There are many Israelis who live in Turkey. A large number are intermarried with Turkish citizens. Some are there because they simply love the beauty of the country, its music and its art. Others are there for reasons relating to their business or artistic concerns.

While it is possible to find a few imported kosher items here and there in Istanbul, one has to hunt very hard to track them down. There are no local kosher supervising agencies. The only exception is the hechsher provided by the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey on a few tourist-related items such as “Turkish Delight” candies.

For the kosher traveler, one can order La Casa packaged meals that are used by Turkish Airlines and under the hechsher of the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey. As it happens, La Casa is also a catering service and actually creates one of the best-quality meals in the industry. Jewish travelers rely on it when visiting Turkey — with the exception of one restaurant and a kosher butcher who stocks frozen foods, there are no other options.

JewishPress.com spoke exclusively with some Jews who live in the country during a recent visit to learn how Jews are faring in Turkey and to give them a voice, if possible.

Not one of the Turkish Jews with whom this news outlet spoke was willing to be identified and most were unwilling to meet in person. Of those who did agree to meet, the tension – nay, fear – was palpable. Even after assurances this reporter would not record the conversation, it took repeated promises that no names would be used before sources could relax enough to speak.

The following narrative is a mashup of the comments of several sources with whom this reporter spoke while in Turkey, in order to fulfill that promise of protecting their identities.

Hana Levi Julian

Istanbul Jews to Hear Megillah in 500-Year-Old Synagogue

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Jews in Istanbul will stream into a 500-year-old synagogue tonight (Wed. Mar. 23) to hear the reading of the Book of Esther, the Megillah, in the presence of the Chief Rabbi of Turkey. It’s an ancient tradition that no one would dare to disturb.

Entrance to the centuries-old Ahrida Synagogue in Istanbul's Balat neighborhood.

Entrance to the centuries-old Ahrida Synagogue in Istanbul’s Balat neighborhood.

The Ahrida Synagogue is a fairly modest building — one has to search hard within the numerous alleyways of the historically Jewish Balat neighborhood to find it — but nevertheless, it is tightly guarded. JewishPress.com managed to secure a precious half-hour interview under the authority of the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey, and when that time was up, two men came to ensure that the synagogue caretake closed and locked the doors and gates precisely on time. To the minute.

“It is to make sure the synagogue stays safe,” we were told. There are cameras everywhere in the small synagogue, we also discovered. Everywhere. But that did not stop our guide from showing us everything there was to know about the house of worship he clearly loved.

“Hundreds of years ago, Jews made their way from Macedonia to the majestic city of Constantinople in search of a better life,” he explained. “There in the heart of what was later to become Istanbul, that small group of Jews built a modest house of worship in the Balat neighborhood.”

The Ahrida Synagogue, built in 1430 by the Jews of Ohry, Macedonia, is arranged in the Sephardic tradition with the bima in the center. Within a few years, the congregation grew, and was supplemented by those who had fled Spain in 1492.

“There are Ottoman documents dating to 1693 verifying the origins of the synagogue and the fact of its continuous use since that time,” he added.

The Ahrida Synagogue is especially famed for the shape of its bima, which is in the form of a “Tevah” – Noah’s Ark – and possibly the ships that brought the Jews to the Ottoman Empire. The mother-of-pearl inlaid door wings of the Ark that holds and protects the Torah scrolls within, and the high, magnificent wooden arched ceiling reflect classical Ottoman styles.

Torah ark with inlaid mother-of-pearl at Ahrida Synagogue in Istanbul.

Torah ark with inlaid mother-of-pearl at Ahrida Synagogue in Istanbul.

The Ahrida Synagogue was restored in 1992 by the Quincentennial Foundation, within the framework of the quincentennial celebrations of the Jewish community’s existence in Turkey.

The synagogue is one of only two in Balat that still remain in active use. A second synagogue that opened for prayers for only a day earlier this year was found with nasty epithets spray-painted on the outside wall 24 hours later. But not so the Ahrida, where neighbors are happy to talk about its history, and point out the apartment of the first chief rabbi of Turkey (“It has a Star of David on the ceiling on the balcony, can you see it?”).

Apartment of the Chief Rabbi, locatec conveniently right across the street from Ahrida Synagogue.

Apartment of the Chief Rabbi, locatec conveniently right across the street from Ahrida Synagogue.

One neighbor quietly said later, “Our streets were filled with people of many lands decades ago. It is very different now. This synagogue was open all the time back then, and the Jews prayed there all the time, every day. But after 1948, most of the Jews left. We miss them and our country is poorer for it.”

Hana Levi Julian

Angry Turkish Neighbors Block Burial of ISIS Terrorist From Local Cemetery

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Angry neighbors refused to allow the family of ISIS terrorist Mehmet Öztürk, 24, to bury the body of their son in the cemetery of their home village of Gaziantep on Monday.

The family had filed a missing person’s report with police when Öztürk disappeared last week. Their son did not have a criminal record – one reason he had not been sought by police — but was known by intelligence to have ties with Da’esh (ISIS).

At 11 am on Saturday morning he made headlines as an ISIS suicide bomber, attacking a group of Israelis on a culinary tour near Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square on the pedestrian boulevard of Istiklal Street lined with foreign consulates, restaurants and cafes.

The disgrace was enough for his family’s neighbors to block his burial from their cemetery.

“Their neighbors didn’t let his parents to bury the attacker in the village,” a source in Istanbul told JewishPress.com, “so they had to bury him far away.

“No one came to his funeral.”

Hana Levi Julian

ISIS Terrorists in Istanbul Followed Israelis Before Attack

Monday, March 21st, 2016

The terrorist who attacked an Israeli group in Istanbul on Saturday followed them from the moment they left the hotel that morning before detonating his suicide vest, according to the area’s security cameras.

At least one and possibly as many as four Turkish terrorists followed the group of 14 Israeli tourists from their Besiktas hotel to Istiklal Street before launching the deadly attack that killed and maimed dozens. Three of the Israelis, two with dual U.S. citizenship, were killed and the rest of the group members were injured in the blast.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu both sent letters of condolence to their Israeli counterparts following the attack.

A total of four people were killed and 39 others were wounded, among them 11 Israeli citizens. Four people remained hospitalized in Istanbul Monday in critical condition, according to the Daily Sabah newspaper. Turkish intelligence officials said after examining security footage in the area, the Israelis — who were on a culinary tour — had been followed that morning from the time they left their hotel.

The terrorists faded back into an alley as the group stopped at a restaurant to have breakfast, according to a report published on the Turkish-language Haberturk news site.

Minutes after the group resumed its tour after breakfast, Mehmet Öztürk detonated his suicide vest. DNA testing confirmed the suicide bomber’s identity; he was a resident of the Turkish town of Gaziantep, and a Da’esh operative of the Islamic State terror group.

Turkish police continued searching on Monday for three other alleged Da’esh terrorists, according to the Daily Sabah. The suspects are believed to be planning further attacks in the wake of Saturday’s suicide bombing.

Photos of the three suspects, Haci Ali Dumaz, Savas Yildiz and Yunus Durmaz, were published in the newspaper in hopes that citizens might see and identify them to police. All are Turkish nationals. Police said the suspects have been given instructions to “carry out further attacks in crowded areas, primarily in Istanbul.”

Yildiz was initially believed to have been the operative who blew himself up in Saturday’s attack. The bombing was the sixth in Turkey since last July, the fourth perpetrated by ISIS. Two others were carried out by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK terrorist organization.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/isis-terrorists-in-istanbul-followed-israelis-before-attack/2016/03/21/

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