Argentina, Israelis mark 25 years since attack on Buenos Aires embassy
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Argentina, Israelis mark 25 years since attack on Buenos Aires embassy

Argentine President Macri meets for first time with Israeli survivors and relatives of 29 victims of the car-bombing

A memorial to the victims of 1992's Israeli embassy bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Wikipedia)
A memorial to the victims of 1992's Israeli embassy bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Wikipedia)

The 1992 terrorist attack against the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was remembered in the Argentine city exactly 25 years after the site was blown up by a car bomb.

The ceremony marking the attack took place on Friday at 2:50 p.m., the time 25 years ago on March 17, 1992, when a suicide bomber killed 29 and wounded 242 in front of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, in what still is the deadliest attack on an Israeli diplomatic mission. A group with ties to Iran and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah took responsibility for the bombing.

Prior to the ceremony, Argentine President Mauricio Macri met for the first time with the Israeli survivors and relatives of victims of the attack.

Macri hosted the group of 50 Israelis on Friday morning at his official residence.

The president tweeted about the visit to his more than 3,741,000 followers: “After 25 years we remember the victims of the painful terrorist attack to the Israeli embassy with relatives and survivors.”

Among those who met with Macri and participated in the remembrance ceremony were Israel’s current ambassador to India and Sri Lanka, Daniel Carmon, whose wife, Eliora, was killed in the attack; the Israeli ambassador to Argentina at the time of the bombing, Yitzhak Shefi, and the director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Yuval Rotem.

Rotem stressed to Argentinian journalists that “it was the first time that Israel lost an entire embassy, the first time that we lost four diplomats in a terrorist attack abroad.”

At 2:50 p.m., after a siren and a moment of silence, Rabbi Tzvi Grublatt, the head of Chabad-Lubavitch in Argentina, recited the mourner’s Kaddish and read the names of the 22 identified victims; seven victims remain unidentified.

Rotem, director general of Israel´s Foreign Ministry, spoke in Hebrew, which was translated to Spanish for the crowd. He blamed Iran for the attack and recalled the killed and the survivors.

Daniel Carmon, who was the consul at the Buenos Aires embassy and survived the attack, said at the ceremony in Spanish: “Nowadays I’m between the past and the present. Remembering the tragedy that we suffered 25 years ago and celebrating the first 25 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and India, the country where I serve as ambassador. I’m between two worlds, the world that I lost in the past and the achievements of the present.”

Plaza Embajada de Israel in Buenos Aires, the site of Israel's former embassy in Argentina (Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel)
Plaza Embajada de Israel in Buenos Aires, the site of Israel’s former embassy in Argentina (Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel)

He added: “My personal heroes are the children. The children who recovered from the tragedy and continue to smile and play. My five children, who lost their wonderful mother. Also the young of the local Jewish community are my heroes. They demonstrated last night here asking for justice. They are the ambassadors of memory; they are the hope of the future.”

The current Israeli ambassador to Argentina, Ilan Sztulman, said that the Jewish and Israeli communities cannot tolerate another 25 years without justice.

Sztulman turned to Vice President Gabriela Michetti, who was with him on stage, and said: “Ms. Vice President. We can’t forget. Another 25 years cannot pass with the murderers responsible for this terrible attack still living quietly in Teheran, in Homs.”

Michetti announced during the ceremony a project to declassify Argentinian information about the attack.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri addressing delegates of the World Jewish Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 15, 2016. (World Jewish Congress)
Argentine President Mauricio Macri addressing delegates of the World Jewish Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 15, 2016. (World Jewish Congress)

Among the crowd were congressmen from Chile, more than 50 representatives of Jewish Community Centers in the United States, members of the World Congress of LGTB Jews, and a delegation of students from ORT and Tarbut schools.

After the event, officials of both countries took a photo in which they adopted the stance of Argentine celebrities participating in the campaign to stop terrorism, which features the motto “peace without terror.”

Argentina has accused Iran of the 1992 attack and also of the deadly 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, but both officially remain unresolved.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week during a memorial event at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem that “the memory of those terrible days in Argentina is etched on our hearts, the images never fading from our minds.”

“I am sure that you all remember the moment when the news about the attack on the embassy reached us in Israel. A bridge stretched thousands of kilometers between Jerusalem and Buenos Aires, a bridge which connected us in our joint destiny, our anguish, empathy, solidarity and clarity.”

Netanyahu said Israel knew right away that Tehran was behind the attack. “Iran set it in motion, Iran planned it and Iran, through its proxy Hezbollah, also carried it out.”

Another example of Iranian sponsorship of terrorism followed in 1994 when the AMIA Jewish community center was bombed, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds, the prime minister said.

The aftermath of the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires (photo credit: Newspaper La Nación (photo credit: Argentina/Wikipedia Commons)
The aftermath of the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires (photo credit: Newspaper La Nación (photo credit: Argentina/Wikipedia Commons)

“We warned then that the beast of terror growing under the auspices of Iran, this disease spreading throughout the Middle East and the entire world, would not go away,” he said.

Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, advancing its ballistic missile program spreading instability in the region, the prime minister added. “The regime in Tehran aspires to plant its flag atop the ruins of the free world. It continues to threaten to annihilate Israel. One of our security agencies estimates that over 80% of Israel’s fundamental security problems stem from Iran.”

Among the 29 victims of the 1992 embassy attack were 25 Argentinians and four Israelis. Netanyahu honored them during his speech at the Foreign Ministry last week.

He hailed Israel’s then-ambassador to Argentina, David Goldman Ben Rephael, as “a true professional, a lover of justice, smart, fair, humble and good-hearted.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Foreign Ministry on the 25th anniversary of the Buenos Aires embassy bombing, on March 6, 2017. (Koby Gideon/PMO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Foreign Ministry on the 25th anniversary of the Buenos Aires embassy bombing, on March 6, 2017. (Koby Gideon/PMO)

Eli Carmon, the wife of Consul Danny Carmon, “had a radiant personality, was an exemplary mother and a gifted and hardworking woman,” Netanyahu said. Eli Ben Zeev, a security officer, was uncompromising, selfless, meticulous and reliable. Zehava Zehavi, the embassy’s first secretary, was “always willing to help and the first to volunteer,” he said.

“A heart-wrenching tragedy befell the families and changed their lives forever – the families of our murdered victims, of the local victims, Jews and non-Jews alike, and the family of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

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