Following the New Year’s Eve terror attack in Istanbul, which killed 39 people and wounded 70 others, JerusalemOnline interviewed a local and tourist who are presently in Istanbul as well as Turkish Jewish journalist Rafael Sadi: “It is impossible to secure a place as big as Istanbul entirely.”

Photo Credit: Sky News

Following the terror attack in Istanbul last night, which killed 39 people and wounded 70 others, JerusalemOnline interviewed a tourist and resident who are presently in Istanbul as well as Turkish dissident journalist Rafael Sadi in order to get some insight into the present reality on the ground.  The tourist told JerusalemOnline: “I am surprised that this did not happen in Europe.  The security here at all of the malls is like at an airport. It is more intense than in Israel. They were patting down everyone and checking everyone thoroughly who entered into Taksim Square.”

A local resident added: “Although they have a thorough police presence throughout the city, it is impossible to secure a place as big as Istanbul entirely. The entire Taksim area and other tourist districts were secure so the terrorists went after a softer target. Most of the tourists come to Istanbul celebrate the New Year in Taksim Square. However, the Reina Club is a popular destination as well located on the Bosporus. Following the terror attack like they do in every terror attack, they blocked off Twitter and social media sites in order to prevent people from spreading rumors.  Shortly afterwards, it was resumed yet there is still a media blackout within the country.”

In an exclusive interview with JerusalemOnline, Turkish Jewish dissident journalist Rafael Sadi stated that for the Turkish people, social media is a “unique place where people can bring forward their ideas.” However, in the wake of the media blackout and social media getting blocked in Turkey, “People are very much uncomfortable and everybody is talking about the probability of an eternal war. Who is against who is not clear: Turks against Kurds; FETO against the rest; fundamentalists against seculars; nationalists against others and socialists against capitalists. The Turkish media is very careful and trying not to be accused of being a FETO member. I feel very bad that people were killed in a nightclub in Turkey. Turkey is still my country also. Hope this will be over soon.”

According to Sadi, there are three possible scenarios for who stands behind this terror attack. The first possibility is the PKK terror group: “They are asking that almost half of Turkey be given to the Kurdish people. They have been fighting against Turkey for nearly 40 years. Their leader Abdullah Ocalan is in jail within Turkey. The Turkish government bargained with him to normalize relations between the Kurdish and Turkish peoples. When the talks suddenly stopped, the terror came back. There is another Kurdish terror group called TAK, which is the product of the PKK. They took responsibility for several terror attacks. Like Hamas and many other terror groups, they say that we were not responsible for it and point to the Izz Ad-Din Al Qassem Brigades. TAK is a similar trick for the PKK.”

Another possible culprit for this terror attack was ISIS: “The Turkish government had very good relations with ISIS until a few years ago. When they held Turkish people hostage, Davutoglu stated that they are just a few angry kids. It was published that Turkish weapons and ammunition made it to Syria. When some of them were arrested by the Turkish Customs Authorities, the MIT (Turkish Intelligence) interrupted them and let them proceed to Syria. Turkish journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul got arrested for publishing this story. After Dundar was released from jail, they tried to re-arrest him but he left the country. Many journalists are arrested and kept in prison because they wrote down their ideas. After ISIS burned alive and beheaded people, they became the world’s number one terror group. Now, Turkey has joined the International Coalition against ISIS and the group has implemented several terror attacks within the country.”

“Other people claim that it could have been a simple Islamist person who is against the secular system and wants to build a religious state,” Sadi noted. “One of the ideas is that some are against the New Year’s Celebrations and therefore, they sought to sabotage the New Year’s and Christmas celebrations.” According to a local tourist, Istanbul is decorated for Christmas like most European countries even though it is a Muslim country so “it was not surprising that the terrorist dressed up as Santa Claus.”

Sadi also related that there are a number of conspiracy theories circulating in Turkey regarding who is responsible for this terror attack: “There are those that blame Fethullah Gulen. According to the Turkish media and government, he was responsible for the last coup attempt in Turkey. Some other conspiracy theories talked about in the media blame the CIA, Mossad or some other super power. They claim that these forces want to weaken Turkey. Don’t forget that Turkey has changed directions from the West to the East. They are less friendly with the US and friendlier with Russia. Iran enters this equation as well. Turkey is waiting for Trump to be a force in order to decide in which direction they finally go. From my position, I believe that Turkey should have good relations with both of them. This is what Israel is doing.”

In response to these developments, the Turkish Jewish community is lying low: “They are just praying and stating that terrorism is not the way to fight. Meanwhile, they want to ask for help from the government. This is what they are thinking even if they are not stating it.” According to Sadi, this terror attack does have implications for Israel: “The most important way to fight against terrorism is intelligence and Israel is well known in the world for her strength regarding this field. The Turkish government knows this is one of the reasons why the normalization agreement was signed so that intelligence can be shared between the two countries. I believe that this already started even before the agreement.”

In order to strengthen the Turkish-Israeli Reconciliation Agreement, Sadi noted that Israeli officials for their part continue to issue statements condemning all terror attacks in Turkey, even when Turkey accuses Israel of waging extrajudicial killings when they eliminate a Hamas terrorist: “This is very dirty politics and I believe that both parties agree to what they are doing.” While Israeli officials condemn the terror in Turkey, they also blame its occurrence on the Obama administration.  For example, Israel’s Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara issued the following press release today: “The terror in Turkey and throughout the world is the result of Obama’s and Kerry’s appeasement policies during the Arab Spring that amounts to underhanded opportunism so that before Trump enters into his position, the terror will increase.”