On a bloody anniversary, Israel points the finger of blame at Iran

Israeli leaders quickly assign responsibility for Wednesday’s terror attack in Bulgaria to Hezbollah-Iran

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Smoke rising from the Sarafovo Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, after a terror attack on an Israeli tour bus, July 18, 2012. (photo credit: JTA/Burgasinfo)
Smoke rising from the Sarafovo Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, after a terror attack on an Israeli tour bus, July 18, 2012. (photo credit: JTA/Burgasinfo)

Iran is the “greatest exporter of terrorism in the world,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after two previous recent attempted terror attacks on Israeli targets abroad. “There are no borders to Iranian terrorism,” was another sentence he used.

On Wednesday afternoon, apparently, Iranian-exported terror reached Europe, with Israelis the victims.

In recent weeks and months, operatives ostensibly backed by the Islamic Republic have tried several times to hit Israeli targets.

In January, three men attempted to attack two Israelis in Azerbaijan. In February, efforts to harm Israeli interests were undertaken in India, Thailand and Georgia. Earlier this month, on July 2, Iranian nationals with explosives trying to attack Israeli targets were arrested in Kenya. On July 14, police in Cyprus reportedly arrested a man for allegedly planning attacks against Israeli interests there.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon held back from pointing fingers at Iran in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, despite reports from Bulgarian media that quoted Sofia’s interior minister as saying it was a suicide attack.

But a few minutes later, Netanyahu did assign blame. “This is a global Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react firmly to it,” a statement released by his office said. (After Netanyahu released his statement, Ayalon followed suit, telling Channel 2 news that “all fingers point to Iran and its messengers, which is Hezbollah.”)

In February, when the wife of an Israeli diplomat was wounded by a car bomb in New Delhi and another bombing was thwarted in Thailand, Netanyahu said Israel will “continue to take strong and systematic, yet patient, action against the international terrorism that originates in Iran.”

After Wednesday’s blast in the Bulgarian Black Sea resort town of Bourgas, near the Turkish border, there was no mention of patience in Netanyahu’s response.

The assumption in Israel is that the bombing was the work of Hezbollah and/or Iranian operatives. The Shiite terrorist group has sworn revenge for 2008 assassination of its former mastermind Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, for which it blames Israel.

“Revenge is the legitimate right. For everything there is a time, God willing. We won’t get into details, but the Israelis will be surprised,” a Hezbollah’s deputy secretary-general said at the time.

Exactly four years later, on February 13, 2012, Israel’s diplomatic missions in New Delhi and Tbilisi were under attack, and analysts connected the attempted bombing with Hezbollah’s plans to avenge Mughniyeh.

Imad Mughniyeh (photo credit CC-BY-SA Wikipedia)
Imad Mughniyeh (photo credit CC-BY-SA Wikipedia)

Wednesday’s deadly attack also took place on a bloody anniversary. Exactly 18 years ago, on July 18, 1994, a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires was bombed. Eighty-five people lost their lives in the attack.

An Argentinean investigator, Alberto Nisman, spent years tracing responsibility for that suicide bombing. He traced it all the way back to Tehran.

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