Newsletter : 3fax1117.txt
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Mossad Warned of Possible Attack in Turkey
Turkish media report that the Mossad sent warnings to Turkish intelligence officials
that terror attacks were planned against synagogues. The first warning in April
specifically pointed to a planned al-Qaeda attack on the N'vei Shalom Synagogue or an
Israeli diplomatic facility. The second, a more general warning, was delivered two months
ago. In a related development, ZAKA officials said that Torah scrolls, prayer books, and
other religious articles would be buried by volunteers who arrived in Turkey to assist
following Saturday's double car bombing attacks. The holy articles were destroyed as a
result of the powerful terrorist bombs that were detonated against two Istanbul synagogues
on the Sabbath morning.
Turkey, Israel Investigate Istanbul Synagogue Bombings
By Amberin Zaman (VOA-Istanbul), Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem) & Ha'aretz
Turkish and Israeli experts are investigating the bombings of two Istanbul synagogues
amid mounting evidence that international terrorist groups such as al-Qaida may have
organized the attacks. Meanwhile, Turkish officials said 23 people were killed by the
blasts that wounded more than 308 people.
Most of the victims of the Saturday morning attacks were passersby. Six of those killed
were reported to be Jews. A Jewish community spokeswoman told VOA that their funeral
services would likely take place Tuesday.
A senior police official quoted by the semi-official Anatolian news agency said nearly
900 pounds of explosives had been packed into two pick-up trucks, which exploded within
minutes of each other outside the synagogues as Jewish worshippers congregated. Interior
ministry officials said there was evidence that the attacks may have been the work of
Israel's foreign minister, Silvan Shalom flew to Istanbul to console the country's
small Jewish community. He called the twin bombings "cowardly attacks carried out by
extremists, who do not want to see countries that are sharing values of democracy, freedom
and rule of law." Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul said the attacks not only targeted
Jews, but Muslim Turks as well.
Four Turks arrested Saturday in connection with the blasts were released after being
cleared of involvement. Turkish security officials have greeted claims by an obscure
Turkish Islamist group known as the Great Islamic Eastern Raiders Front, that it had
carried out the bombings with skepticism. Shalom was quoted by Israeli radio saying that
information he had received from the Turkish government showed that "the direction" was
"more to al-Qaida."
Saturday's blasts were the latest in a series of strikes against Jewish targets,
including suicide attacks in the Moroccan city of Casablanca in May that killed 45 and an
attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya a year ago that left 18 dead.
Turkey and Israel have historically enjoyed close relations capped by a military
training and cooperation agreement signed by the two countries in 1996. The accord
provoked anger among Turkey's Arab neighbors and Iran, which accuse Ankara of forming a
joint front against them with the Jewish state. But such reaction has been more than
offset by unrelenting Israeli support for Turkey's bid to become a full member of the
European Union and backing from the influential Jewish lobby in Washington.
Fears that the relationship would suffer under Turkey's pro-Islamic government, which
swept to power a year ago have proved empty. The Turkish energy minister, Hilmi Guler, is
scheduled to travel to Israel next month to sign a long delayed agreement to sell the
Jewish state up to 50 million cubic meters of water annually from Turkey's Manavgat river.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the bombing shows that "terrorism knows no bounds." He
also said the bomb attacks demonstrated that terrorism does not discriminate by religion
or race. The purpose of such acts is to "sow fear and terror through the slaying of
Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Danny Shek said the attacks have
demonstrated the need for nations to forge a united front against terrorism. "One can
hardly imagine a more tragic, violent and cruel attack than to simultaneously go after two
places of worship on the Sabbath in order to kill a maximum amount of people who are busy
praying and worshipping," he said. "I think that internationally the message that comes
across this event is that no country is immune to terrorism and no state can afford not to
participate in the global fight against terror."
One of the Jewish leaders in Istanbul, Avi Al-Kash, told Israel Radio that Jews had no
intention of fleeing Turkey because of terrorism. "We will continue to pray in our
synagogues again. The funerals will take place in the same place in the same synagogue. We
should not let terror overrule our good relations, our good acquaintances here. As the
Jewish minority here, having every right, every freedom, I do not think those
relationships will be damaged."
Glass shards and metal scraps lay strewn in the streets outside the two synagogues that
were targeted by separate explosions, as heavy smoke billowed from the buildings hit by
the blasts. Sabri Yalim, the head of Istanbul's fire department, told NTV that the scene
outside the Neve Shalom looked like a war zone. "There is a huge pit on the
ground. The houses and cars are completely destroyed, as if a huge earthquake hit the
"There was huge panic, glasses exploding and metal pieces all over the place. There
were lots of people injured," said Enver Eker, one eyewitness. "We saw someone put a head
in a cardboard box."
The chief rabbi of the Istanbul Jewish community, Isaac Haliva, who was praying with
his family in the Neve Shalom synagogue at the time of the blast, said there were no words
to explain the magnitude of the disaster.
"We had almost finished reading from the Torah, when suddenly behind me there was a
huge explosion," Haliva told Israel Radio. "I'm talking on the phone on this holy Sabbath
day, but I hope the Lord sends complete recovery to those injured, and I ask the people of
Israel to pray for them." Haliva's son suffered an injury to his eye as a result of the
Isaac Bivas, who was in the Beth Israel synagogue in Istanbul's Sisli neighborhood when
the blast went off, said he was "inside with all the Jews, when suddenly the light bulbs
shattered, people were hurt and there was some panic. Everyone wanted to get out of the
door furthest from the blast. We tried to open the synagogue door, there was a lot of
outside in the street died, and whoever was in the synagogue was lightly injured."
Medical teams carried away several people, some of them with bloodied or charred faces.
Twisted wreckage of a car and a huge crater remained in front of the Neve Shalom
synagogue. Windows at a mosque several doors down from Neve Shalom
were blown out.
Istanbul, has a long history of Jewish presence, notably bolstered after Spain expelled
Jews in 1492. "If they are trying to scare the Jewish community here, they will fail. We
have been here for 500 years and we will stay. Terror will not win," Roberto Abudara, who
had been in the Sisli synagogue when the attackers struck, told Reuters.
Neve Shalom 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. In 1992, the Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim group
Hizbullah carried out a bomb attack against the same synagogue but no one was injured.
Another 5,000 Jews live elsewhere in predominantly Muslim Turkey.
Individuals examining the wreckage outside a synagogue in Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday
after a bomb exploded nearby. (Reuters)
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