Iranian terrorism will not defeat Israel, and the country will act forcefully
against it, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, hours before an
IDF plane landed at Ben-Gurion Airport carrying the bodies of the five Israelis
killed in the Bulgaria terror attack the previous day.
covered in Israeli flags, were met with a brief military ceremony. The funerals
are scheduled for Friday.
The five victims have been identified as
Kochava Shriki, 42, from Rishon Lezion; Itzik Colangi, 28, and Amir Menashe, 28,
both from Petah Tikva; and Elior Price, 26, and Maor Harush, 25, both from
In a brief statement he delivered to the nation a few hours before
the plane landed, the prime minister said unequivocally that Hezbollah carried
out the attack. He pledged that Israel would pursue the attackers and “extract a
heavy price from those who sent them.”
He did not
“Israel is a strong country,” Netanyahu said. “Israelis are a
strong people. We will continue to fight Iranian terrorism, it will not defeat
us and we will act with great force against it.”
While on Wednesday,
shortly after the attack, Netanyahu issued a statement saying that “all signs”
of the attack led to Iran, on Thursday he said unambiguously that Hezbollah –
and by extension Iran – was behind it.
“Yesterday’s attack in Bulgaria
was carried out by Hezbollah, the long arm of Iran,” he said. According to
government officials, Netanyahu has concrete evidence linking the Lebanese
terrorist organization to the atrocity.
One official said that a 24-
year-old Swedish passport holder of Lebanese decent, arrested on July 7 in
Cyprus after tracking the movement of Israeli tourists on the island, has admitted to being a Hezbollah operative.
His modus operandi was identical to that used by the terrorist in Burgas,
Bulgaria, the official said.
One senior security official said the Burgas
attack was a part of a long wave of terrorism that began in 2011 and had
included at least 20 attacks and attempted attacks by Iran and Hezbollah, either
acting independently or together, on five continents.
Among the thwarted
attacks were attempts over the past month in Cyprus and Kenya, as well as
earlier efforts in Georgia, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Thailand and other
Among the attacks that were carried out were the one on the
wife of an Israeli diplomat in India in February, and the assassination of the
Saudi ambassador in Pakistan in May 2011.
Iranian citizens have been
arrested in a number of countries, including in Thailand and Kenya, while Syrian
and Lebanese nationals affiliated with Hezbollah have been arrested and
Some of those were arrested before being able to
carry out attacks, and others – like those in Thailand in February – after their
plans went awry.
The official said that what distinguished the current
rash of terrorism was that it was “a wave,” and not just individual attacks. He
said they were meant by Iran as a means of deterrence against any military
action against it, and an effort to show the world what it was capable of
Netanyahu, in his statement, termed this effort a “global terror
campaign.” He said the “time has come” for the world to say clearly that Iran
was behind this wave of terrorism.
“Iran is the No. 1 exporter of terror
in the world,” he said, linking this attack to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. “It
is forbidden for a terror state to have nuclear weapons. It is forbidden for the
most dangerous country in the world to have the most dangerous weapons in the
Tehran denied any involvement, with its Foreign Ministry issuing
a statement saying that “Iran’s position is to condemn all terrorist acts in the
Not everyone was pleased with Netanyahu's willingness to point an
accusing finger at Iran. Former Mossad head Danny Yatom, during a briefing with
journalists organized by The Israel Project, said that it usually took time
during an investigation to draw unequivocal conclusions. While it was logical to
assume that Iran and Hezbollah were behind the attacks, he said it would be
better to wait and say so only after concrete evidence could be gathered and
shared with the world.
The arrival of the coffins on Thursday evening
culminated a day of frenetic activity, during which 33 Israeli tourists hurt in
the blast were brought back to Israel earlier in the day on an IDF Hercules
plane, and dispersed to hospitals around the country.
Israelis who were injured in the attack, listed in critical condition and
immediately dispatched for treatment to a hospital in Sofia, were also brought
back to Israel on a separate plane on Thursday. More than 60 other Israelis who
were on the Air Bulgaria flight whose passengers boarded the ill-fated bus that
was attacked, but who were not injured, also came home on a plane put at their
disposal by the Bulgarian government.
While survivors of the attack
complained about the Bulgarians handling of the situation, saying they were slow
in initially responding and illequipped medically to deal with an attack of this
proportion, Netanyahu praised Sofia for its help and cooperation.
friendship between countries is tested at moments like these, and Bulgaria is a
true friend of Israel,” he said.
Bulgaria is expected, along with Israel,
to turn to the United Nations Security Council in the coming days and seek a
condemnation of the bombing.
The two countries are also expected to
separately write letters of protest to the Security Council. Jerusalem hopes
this will lead to an international diplomatic campaign against Iranian-backed
Israel is also expected in the coming days to lobby in Europe
for adding both Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on the European
Union’s list of terrorist organizations. According to diplomatic officials, the
fact that Wednesday’s attack took place in an EU country, and that there was
also an attempted attack in Cyprus – which holds the rotating EU presidency –
may provide an impetus for finally getting these organizations onto the EU’s