7 dead in bombing of Israeli bus in Bulgaria
By HERB KEINON AND YAAKOV KATZ
Netanyahu blames Iran for bombing near Burgas airport, vows to act "forcefully" against Tehran-backed terror on targets abroad.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blamed Iran on Wednesday for the bomb attack
that killed at least seven people and wounded dozens more on a bus carrying
Israelis just outside the airport in Burgas on the Black Sea
Netanyahu, who said “all signs lead to Iran,” warned that Israel
would respond forcefully against Iranian terrorism.
The blast on the bus
occurred soon after a charter plane, Air Bulgaria flight 392 from Ben-Gurion
Airport, landed at 4:45 p.m. The bus was the second of four carrying Israeli
tourists from the airport to hotels in the city.
The explosion also
damaged two of the other buses.
The explosion is believed to have been
caused by a bomb placed either underneath the bus or in its luggage
Eyewitnesses said people jumped out of the windows to
extricate themselves from the carnage.
One eyewitness, Shoshi Ayaler,
told Channel 2 that the Israelis had just gone through passport control and were
directed to the buses.
“We placed our bags in the luggage compartment and
after a couple of minutes the bus burst into flames,” she said.
Guy said that “people who survived the blast escaped through the windows so as
not to walk over corpses.” He said the injured were evacuated to the hospital
and the rest were returned to the terminal.
“Over the last few months
alone we have seen Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India,
Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other places,” the prime minister said in a
On Tuesday, Netanyahu raised the threat of Iranianbacked
terrorist attacks on Israeli targets, during a meeting with Hungarian President
Janos Ader. He also mentioned this threat at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, when he
pointed a finger at Iran for trying to carry out a thwarted attack in Cyprus
earlier this month.
Security officials said a similar plot – the bombing
of an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria – was foiled earlier this
Wednesday’s attack came on the 18th anniversary of the bombing of
the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded more
Referring to that attack, which an Argentinean court blamed
squarely on Iran, Netanyahu said that nearly two decades later, “deadly Iranian
terrorism continues to strike at innocent people.
This is a global
Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react forcefully to it.”
Minister Ehud Barak said the attack was part of a “long battle” that Israel was
waging against attempts by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas to attack Israeli targets
overseas. He urged Israelis to continue traveling abroad and vowed that the
defense establishment would use all its force to “get its hands on the
perpetrators and the plotters.”
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev,
Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov and the country’s interior minister all rushed
to the scene of the bombing. Israel and Bulgaria have close ties and the
Bulgarian resorts on the Black Sea coast are popular vacation destinations for
Israelis, especially for youth.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was in
contact with Mladenov, who said that six people were killed at the scene, and a
seventh died in the hospital.
Thirty other people were wounded, including
two in critical condition.
The Foreign Ministry’s situation room
immediately went into operation after the blast, and received scores of calls
from worried relatives. Deputy director- general Gideon Meir said the ministry
efforts were focused on three areas: providing help to the injured, providing
logistical assistance for other Israeli tourists in the area and identifying the
Meir said that two Israeli planes were expected to land in Burgas
after midnight with two Israeli doctors, seven paramedics, a psychologist and
three Foreign Ministry workers to supplement the staff from the embassy in Sofia
who went to Burgas.
Liberman, in a conversation with Cypriot Foreign
Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, whose country holds the rotating presidency
of the EU, said that in addition to dealing with the dead and wounded, Israel
would work on all levels to ensure directly or indirectly that all those
involved in the attack “pay the price.”
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel,
the former head of the Counterterrorism Bureau, said Hezbollah and Iran could
have recruited operatives.
“Hezbollah has a presence in Bulgaria and
there have been attempts that were thwarted there before,” said Nuriel, who
stepped down from his post earlier this year. “They could have relied on the
local Muslim community or [their terrorists could have] crossed into Bulgaria
from Turkey. It is quite easy.”
Israel has been concerned Hezbollah would
attack Israelis overseas in connection with the fourth anniversary of the
assassination of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus,
attributed to the Mossad.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called for
European countries to include Hezbollah in their list of terrorist
Israel had asked Bulgaria to increase its security over
Israeli tour groups in the capital city of Sofia. According to Sofia News
Agency, a Hezbollah plot was earlier uncovered by local security agencies, which
warned Israel. There was no travel advisory in effect for Bulgaria on
Just a few hours before the attack, the Foreign Ministry
issued a statement marking 18 years since the Buenos Aires bombing.
pain and sorrow we feel is added to the difficult feeling we have that those
responsible for this attack were not yet brought to justice,” the statement
“Israel condemns Iran for standing behind terror attacks around the
world by funding training and arming terrorist organizations.”