J’lem blames Iran, Hezbollah for bomb attacks

Large-scale response unlikely for incidents in New Delhi and Tbilisi, although Liberman hints otherwise; official: Location was only surprise.

Exploded car at Israeli New Delhi embassy in India 390R (photo credit: REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma)
Exploded car at Israeli New Delhi embassy in India 390R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma)
Israel will “not scramble the jet fighters” in response to Monday’s attacks against diplomatic missions abroad, one diplomatic official said, even though Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held high-level security consultations throughout the day to discuss the twin assaults.
Within hours of Monday’s attacks in Tbilisi and New Delhi, Netanyahu placed the blame squarely on Tehran, saying Israel would continue to “systematically and with patience use a strong arm” against international terrorism originating from Iran.
Tal Yehoshua-Koren, the wife of a diplomat stationed in New Delhi, was moderately wounded there, along with her driver and two passersby. In Georgia, no one was injured when the bomb under the car of a local embassy employee was discovered and neutralized.
Netanyahu said Iran, and its proxy Hezbollah, was responsible for a string of attempted attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets abroad in recent months, including in Thailand and Azerbaijan. In each of the previous cases, the local authorities attacks helped thwart the attacks, he said.
“Iran, which is behind these attacks, is the biggest exporter of terrorism in the world,” the prime minister said. “The Israeli government and its security forces will continue to work together with local security services against these terrorist actions.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman hinted at an active Israeli response, but gave little indication of what he had in mind in comments he made soon after the attacks.
“The attacks in New Delhi and Tbilisi remind us again that Israel and its citizens are targets for terrorist attacks both inside the country and abroad,” he said. “We can identify exactly who is responsible for these attacks, but as diplomats will only say that we will not let it pass.”
One of the Foreign Ministry’s spokesmen, Paul Hirschson, also indicated that Israel would respond forcefully, saying in a conference call with journalists organized by The Israel Project that “I don’t think we’re going to say we’re going to twiddle our thumbs happily at attempts on Israelis anywhere.”
Tehran, meanwhile, denied any responsibility for the attacks, with Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast saying it was another phase in Israel’s “psychological war” against the Islamic Republic.
Iran’s official news agency IRNA quoted him as saying that Israel itself was behind the attacks to “tarnish Iran’s friendly ties” with Georgia and India.
Mehmanparast said this type of activity was in Israel’s “innate nature,” and that “Tehran condemns terrorism in strongest term as Iran has been a victim of terrorism.”
Earlier on Monday, the Iranian ambassador to New Delhi rejected as “sheer lies” accusations that it was involved in the bomb attack.
“Any terrorist attack is condemned [by Iran] and we strongly reject the untrue comments by an Israeli official,” IRNA quoted Mehdi Nabizadeh as saying. “These accusations are untrue and sheer lies, like previous times.”
Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said the attacks did not take Israel by surprise, and that they came amid a wave of attempted attacks including plots against Israeli and Jewish targets last month in Bangkok and Baku. One official said Israel did not make public other thwarted attacks over the past year.
“The attacks were not a surprise,” one official said. “The only surprise was a tactical one, regarding where they took place.”
Hirschson said it was unlikely that the terrorists picked India, site of 2008’s terrorist massacre in Mumbai, whose targets included the local Chabad House, because of an interest in disrupting Indo-Israeli ties, but rather because it was where they felt they could successfully carry out an attack.
India’s Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna phoned Liberman and expressed his “shock” over the attack in New Delhi.
According to Liberman’s office, Krishna said India would make all efforts to find those responsible and bring them to justice. He also said India would provide the Israeli Embassy with all the security it needed, and stressed the importance India placed on its friendship with Israel.
Krishna visited Israel last month, the highest level Indian official to do so in more than a decade.
Liberman thanked his Indian counterpart and said Israel viewed India as a true friend.
This was not the first time terrorists have targeted Israeli diplomatic missions abroad, and “no Israel diplomat anywhere in the world will be deterred by terrorism,” he said.
In the US, meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attacks “in the strongest possible terms.”
She indicated the US was ready to assist with the investigation of “these cowardly acts,” and added that “the scourge of terrorism is an affront to the entire international community.”
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed similar sentiments, with Hague saying he was “shocked and appalled” by the attacks.
Hilary Leila Krieger and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.