- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 22, 2003

ISTANBUL — Thousands of Turks demonstrated against a string of suicide bombings here and in cities across the country yesterday, some blaming the United States and others blaming Muslim fanatics on a rampage during the holy month of Ramadan.

About 2,000 marchers assembled in Taksim Square, near the site of Thursday’s twin explosions at the British Consulate and the Turkish headquarters of a British-based bank — attacks that killed at least 30 persons and wounded hundreds.

On one side of the square, they assembled in silence, eschewing political party banners, instead holding the Turkish flag aloft. They included women wearing headscarves, members of trade unions and workers at nongovernment organizations.

But at the Communist Party headquarters on the other side of the square, demonstrators vented rage at the United States, blaming Turkey’s close alliance with Washington and Western Europe for the attacks.

“If there’s something like al Qaeda, it’s obvious that they serve the U.S. interest,” said Gamre Erbil, who marched with the Communist supporters.

Turkish Jews kept the synagogues of Istanbul closed yesterday, one week after suicide bombings that killed at least 25 persons and injured more than 300 at two different places of worship during Sabbath prayer services.

Worshippers instead gathered in private homes.

The Jewish community “is still panicked,” said Salamon Levi, a block away from Neve Shalom, one of the two synagogues.

Other members of the community said they planned to stay away from synagogues, community centers and restaurants frequented by Istanbul’s Jewish community.

Funerals were held on Tuesday for the six Jewish victims, who included an elderly woman and her granddaughter. Most of the victims were Muslims who happened to be in the area.

At the Beth Israel synagogue, a group of workers was blocking up the windows and doors of the building with bricks while police continued to patrol the area.

Mainly Muslim Turkey has a Jewish community of 35,000-strong, most of them living in Istanbul. Most trace their roots back to Jews expelled from Spain five centuries ago during the Inquisition.

The Neve Shalom synagogue, the largest Jewish place of worship, was attacked by Palestinian radicals who killed 22 persons in 1986. The Lebanese Shi’ite militia Hezbollah bombed it in 1994 although no one was injured.

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