Photo Credit: JewishPress.com
Plaque on the wall of the lobby at Istanbul's Neve Shalom Grand Synagogue, memorializing terror attack on the site.

Israelis currently in Istanbul are being advised to remain in their hotels for the time being following a major terror attack in which six people were killed and at least 81 others were wounded.

A security source told Israel’s Channel 12 News on Sunday evening that Israelis who are in Istanbul should stay in their hotels until things become clear — and to listen to the recommendations and instructions of the Turkish security sources.

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The source also said that the travel warning to Turkey is set at level 3, which is a medium level, and as a derivative of this, it is recommended to avoid non-essential travel.

The attack that took place in the iconic Taksim Square section of Istanbul near the Esmer restaurant, where many Israelis eat when traveling in the city.

WARNING: GRAPHIC

Taksim Square is the main square of the ancient city once known as Constantinople.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in a statement that he was “”Shaken by news of the despicable bombing in Istanbul targeting innocent civilians.

“On behalf of the Israeli people, I extend our deepest sympathies to our Turkish friends and the victims’ families. The whole world must stand united and firm against terror,” Herzog said.

Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz both also issued strong statements condemning the attack and expressing support for the government and people of Turkey.

Expressing condolences to “the government of Turkey, the Turkish people and the families of those killed in today’s murderous attack in Istanbul,” Gantz added that the security establishment in Israel “is prepared to help as much as necessary.”

A preliminary investigation found that a woman who arrived at the scene about seven minutes before the explosion planted what was probably the IED that exploded, and left, according to a report by Israel’s Channel 12 News. Turkish media released security footage showing the woman.

The blast took place on Istiklal Caddesi, a street filled with shops and restaurants, as the local Jewish community was hosting a day of Jewish culture at nearby Neve Shalom synagogue, the largest synagogue in Istanbul.

The synagogue event — filled with attendees and which was to include a memorial ceremony marking the anniversary of a massive terror attack at the synagogue in 2003 — was immediately ended in the wake of the blast.

Nineteen years ago, Neve Shalom and a second synagogue were both bombed during a two-day terror spree that left 55 people dead, including six Jews. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs donated a beautiful chandelier to the rebuilt synagogue, along with a plaque to commemorate those who lost their lives in the attack.

It is possible that Sunday’s explosion was deliberately timed to mark the anniversary of the 2003 terror attacks.

Taksim Square was also targeted in a suicide bombing in March 2016, during which three Israelis – Simcha Damari, Avraham Goldman and Yonatan Shor – were murdered.

1 Israeli Victim Identified in Istanbul Terror Attack

One Israeli citizen was initially reported as unaccounted for, but that individual was subsequently located and at present no Israelis are listed as missing.

An Israeli woman who saw the explosion said the attack took place outside a restaurant that is popular with Israeli tourists.

The targeted area was very crowded at the time of the explosion, which took place at around 4:20 pm Sunday afternoon. The scene was caught on a video posted to social media, showing crowds of people screaming and racing for cover in response to the loud bang that was followed by flames.

Other Israeli citizens who were in the area of ​​the explosion confirmed there were many Israelis in Taksim Square — a popular tourist destination — at the time of the explosion.

One eyewitness, “Osnat” told Channel 12 News, “There were loads of people. We were terrified and trying to get to the hotel. It is impossible to describe what is going on there, I am afraid to speak out loud.”

Another Israeli who was at the scene, added that he was just 150 meters from the site of the attack. “I was in pain from the hit I took, I felt a real ‘boom’ and everything was smoky and full of blood. People were running amok, thousands of people, even tens of thousands of people at once — this is perhaps the busiest place in the world,” he added.

“The department for Israelis overseas in the consular wing of the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul are checking to see if there were any Israelis involved in the incident,” Israel’s Ministry of Foreign affairs said in a statement. “We will release any update about any further developments.”

There has been no claim of responsibility for the blast.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said the incident appeared to be terror-related, told reporters at a news conference the perpetrators, once found, would be punished. Erdogan condemned the “vile attack” and said authorities were “working to find the perpetrators.

“Efforts to defeat Turkey and the Turkish people through terrorism will fail today just as they failed yesterday and as they will fail again tomorrow,’ Erdogan said.

“Our people can be confident that the culprits behind the attack will be punished as they deserve… It would be incorrect to say that this is undoubtedly a terrorist attack, but the initial developments and the initial intelligence shows that it smells like terrorism,” he added.

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