WASHINGTON — The United States on Saturday led worldwide condemnation of the terrorist attack on the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul, Turkey, deploring it as a "cowardly" incident.
"We condemn this cowardly attack and deeply deplore the terrible loss of life which resulted from it," Bruce Ammerman, a State Department spokesman, said.
Ammerman said U.S. authorities in Turkey are attempting to determine if any Americans were among the dead or wounded. Ammerman declined to say if U.S. authorities had determined the identity of the attackers.
In New York, leaders of the American Jewish Committee also reacted with outrage.
Theodore Ellenoff, president of the committee, an umbrella group for major Jewish organizations, said in a statement, "The American Jewish Committee is outraged by the savage attack of Arab fanatics which resulted in the brutal murder of . . . innocent Turkish-Jewish civilians in the midst of Sabbath morning prayers in the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul."
In the statement, read by Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, the committee said: "This criminal act comes on the heels of the equally horrible killing of . . . innocent civilians and the wounding of scores of others in the hijacking of the Pan Am airplane at the Karachi Airport by Arabic-speaking terrorists.
"Clearly, we are facing another wave of Islamic fanaticism and violence, which is nothing less than an attack on the very foundations of Western democratic societies and their core values, which respect life and liberty."
The committee urged international cooperation to ensure that terrorists are brought to justice.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, denounced the tragedy as a callous and vicious attack.
In a call to Los Angeles from Jerusalem, Hier told center spokeswoman Carolyn Friedman that the attack "is a further indication that to many in the Arab world, Judaism itself is the enemy and that claims by the Arab states that they are only anti-Zionist is sheer fantasy."
"The rabbi stated that hardly a day goes by in which vicious anti-Semitic articles, cartoons and letters to the editor are not introduced in newspapers throughout the Arab world," Friedman said.
Israeli officials expressed anger and shock at the attack and vowed to press Israel's war against terrorists.
Prime Minister Shimon Peres said on Israeli radio that he is "deeply shocked over the criminal murder of Jewish worshipers on the Sabbath" and added that Israel "expects that the Turkish government will take all necessary steps to capture the murderers and bring them to justice."
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, also speaking on Israeli radio, said: "What happened in the Neve Shalom synagogue of Istanbul was a cynical expression of criminal cruelty and hatred which the terrorists have against Jews and Israel.
"The Jewish blood which was spilled in the synagogue in the Istanbul Diaspora will force the Jewish state to intensify its initiated war against the terrorist organizations in any place, at any time," Shamir said.
The Jewish community in France called on the French government to reinforce security at synagogues and other possible targets for anti-Jewish raids.
The External Relations Ministry said France expressed its "very strong emotion" at the news of the attack and assured the Turkish authorities and the victims' families of its sympathy.