A bomb on a tourist bus (or possibly a suicide bomber) at Sarafovo Airport in Bourgas, Bulgaria, which was to carry Israeli tourists from their charter plane to the terminal, has killed at least 7, injuring 30.
At least seven people were killed in an attack on an Israeli tour bus at the Sarafovo International Airport in the Bulgarian vacation city of Bourgas on Wednesday afternoon. Some news reports put the number of fatalities as high as 10.
According to initial reports, a bomb was placed in the bus, detonating to murderous effect. The impact was so strong as to damage two other buses nearby, also with Israelis on board. Some initial reports said the attack was a suicide bombing, but the preliminary investigation pointed to the bomb having been placed in a suitcase in the vehicle’s luggage hold.
Nearly all the casualties were understood to be Israelis. A Bulgarian tour guide was also said to be among the dead.
Israel Police and the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry confirmed over 30 people were injured in the attack.
Israel canceled all planes to Bulgaria.
A Bulgarian charter plane with 170 passengers from Tel Aviv to Bourgas landed at 4:50 p.m. local time, and its passengers boarded buses to take them from the plane to the terminal. The explosion occurred a short time later.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “All the signs point to Iran. Just in the last few months, we saw Iran attempting to hurt Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other countries. Exactly 18 years after the infernal terror attack in the Jewish community center in Argentina [in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed], the murderous terror of the Iranians continues to hurt innocent people. This is terrorist Iranian aggression revealing itself all over the world. Israel will respond forcefully to the Iranian terror.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, too, placed the blame squarely on Iran and Hezbollah. ”We will know how to get to those who are responsible,” he said.
Some reports said three pregnant women were on the bus. Initial rumors that members of an Israeli youth basketball team was present at the scene of the tragedy were dispelled.
Aron Katz, an Israeli eyewitness, said that a few moments after they got on the bus, “we heard a really loud boom, and felt the bus shake, and we ran off the bus.”
Katz noted that he saw several couples on the bus, some with young children. “I tried to get back on the bus after the explosion to get my daughter’s wheelchair, but they wouldn’t let me. I saw a woman lying unconscious, and tried to wake her,” Katz said, adding that the scene was very chaotic.
Idan Ruben, a local tour guide in Bourgas, told Channel 10 that the bomb went off “as soon as people entered the bus.” He said the bus was filled with 44 people, all of them Israelis.
ZAKA and Magen David Adom were sending planes to Bourgas, and MDA may try to fly the wounded home to Israel for treatment.
Iran and its proxy, Lebanese-based terror group Hezbollah, were the immediate prime suspects in the attack. Israel has thwarted numerous Hezbollah terror attacks in recent years. Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV station was broadcasting details of the bombing, with excited commentary, on Wednesday evening, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
In January, the Foreign Ministry warned of a possible terror plot against Israelis in Bulgaria, urging Israelis to take extra precautions when traveling there. It also asked the Bulgarian government to implement extra security measures to ensure that Israeli tourists remain safe.
Last week, a suspected Hezbollah attack on Israeli tourists in Cyprus was foiled by Cypriot authorities. It was unclear whether Wednesday’s attack was related, but the Lebanese terrorist organization swore revenge against Israel, after the assassination of its terror chief, Imad Mughniyeh, in February 2008.
Nitzan Noriel, former head of the government’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, told Channel 2 News that Hezbollah and Iran targets countries like Bulgaria because they have their own Muslim populations and have proximity to Lebanon and Iran, with direct flights from Iran, he added. Channel 10 also explained that Iranian-backed agents target Israelis in countries that they can easily enter, referring to Thailand and India.
Bourgas is the second-largest city on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. It has become a very popular destination for Israeli tourists over the past few years, in the wake of Turkey’s dramatic break with Israel.
The Times of Israel is also live blogging the attack and the aftermath. This item in particular caught my eye:
Meir Javedanfar, an Iran expert at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, says, “It’s far too early to conclude who was behind the bombing in Bulgaria today. We have to wait for the results of a full investigation before a credible conclusion can be made. For now all we can do is to assume which countries or groups could be responsible.
“Iran is one suspect due to a number of reasons, one being that today’s attack in Bulgaria has taken place exactly 18 years after the 18th of July 1994 AMIA bombings in Buenos Aires, which took the lives of more than 85 people, including many Israelis and Argentinean Jews .Investigations concluded that Iran was responsible for that attack.
“This is in addition to recent attempts to attack Israeli targets in
Thailand and Azerbaijan, and an almost successful attack in India.
Iran is also accused of being behind those attacks. However one can not rule out Al Qaeda. The organization has tried to target Israelis before, such as in Mombasa, Kenya in November 2002.
“For now all we have to go on are assumptions, and a list of credible suspects.”
The Jerusalem Post expands on the terror threat for Israelis in Bulgaria:
In January, a suspicious package found on a bus carrying Israeli tourists from Turkey to Bulgaria led Israel to request boosted security for its citizens traveling in the country, according to reports in the Bulgarian press.
The Sofia News Agency Novinite quoted Dan Shenar, head of security at the Israeli Transportation Ministry, confirmed he had requested the increased security at the time.
Israel has been concerned Hezbollah would try to attack Israelis overseas in in connection with the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh, attributed to the Mossad.
Israel had asked Bulgaria, for example, 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.
What a dreadful pity that security was not increased in all tourist spots that attract Israelis, and not just in Sofia.
May Hashem avenge the blood of those killed by the murderous terrorists, and give comfort to the victims’ families, and may He grant a speedy and full recovery to the injured.