An airplane carrying 32 Israeli tourists wounded in the attack in Burgas Wednesday landed in Ben Gurion Airport Thursday afternoon.Three victims remained in serious condition at a hospital in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. Military medical staff currently in Bulgaria have yet to determine whether they will be flown to Israel later in the day.
IDF chief medical officer Brig.-Gen. Itzik Kreiss, who was on the flight and oversaw the evacuation effort, told reporters at the airport that he was ordered by Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz to bring the wounded home as soon as possible.
He said that the victims were generally in better shape than expected and that most had suffered light or medium injuries. The incoming wounded were dispersed among hospitals across the country, with some expected to be released home as early as Thursday afternoon.
Of the three Israeli victims remaining in Bulgaria, Kreiss said, one man was severely injured suffering from head injuries, one woman was severely injured suffering from injuries to her abdomen and lower chest, and another woman had burnwounds and internal injuries from the force of the blast.
“The critical decision now is to determine what to do with those victims that were most seriously wounded and receiving treatment in Sofia,” said Kreiss, adding that his deputy was at the hospital assessing whether their condition allowed them to make the flight.
Kreiss complimented the Bulgarian medical crews who treated the victims of the attack. “They saved lives,” said Kreiss. He noted that there were no children among the wounded.
The bodies of the five Israelis killed were also set to be flown home Thursday evening. Israeli tourists in Burgas, including some who wanted to cut their visit short, were also being flown back.
A Foreign Ministry official said it had been fairly clear for some time who the victims were, and that the affected families had been constantly updated, but that the authorities were awaiting the completion of the formal identification process before publishing the names.
Israeli rescue teams in Bulgaria began evacuating the wounded from the resort town of Burgas Thursday morning, as reports indicated that the deadly attack on a bus of tourists was carried out by a male suicide bomber with a fake American passport.
The death toll in the bombing on the bus of Israelis at the airport in Burgas was put at six — five Israelis, one whom died overnight in the hospital, and the Bulgarian bus driver. Officials had earlier reported a total of eight people — six Israelis, the bus driver and the suicide bomber — had died in the blast.
On Thursday afternoon, video surfaced on YouTube showing the seconds after the attack. Warning: graphic content.
The video shows the bus on fire as passengers and officials run frantically around the scene.
On Thursday morning, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said the attack was likely carried out by a suicide bomber who detonated as he boarded the bus. It was previously thought the bomb had been in a suitcase placed on the bus, or in the luggage hold or affixed to the vehicle.
The suicide bomber was reportedly carrying an American passport and a driver’s license from Michigan, both thought to be fake, the Sofia News Agency reported.
In a security video released by police, the Caucasian man is seen walking around the premises for at least an hour, dressed in sports attire, the agency reported.
“He looks like one of us,” Bulgaria’s interior minister said.
The American security agencies FBI and CIA joined the investigation into the attack, along with Israeli and Bulgarian officials.
Burgas is a very popular vacation spot among Israelis, especially teenagers. About 40 people were on the bus when the bomb ripped through it Wednesday afternoon.
A ZAKA rescue service spokesperson told Army Radio that the bodies were difficult to identify.
Other Israelis who had been on the flight along with the bombed passengers complained Thursday morning that they were being held in the terminal, without being allowed to return to Israel or enter Bulgaria.
“They aren’t organized,” one passenger told Israel Radio. “We just want to go to our hotel and have a rest and then return to Israel.”
Others caught in the attack, including some of whom were lightly wounded in a bus next to the one that was blown up, refused to leave the airport for their hotels or undergo treatment in Bulgaria, saying they would rather return home to be checked out, according to Ynet news.
Also Thursday morning, a number of vacationers in Burgas began returning to Israel as flights out of the Black Sea town resumed.
The returning vacationers were not caught in the bombing at the Burgas airport, but their scheduled return flights were delayed by the cancellation of commercial flights after the terror attack.