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Iran may have been behind blast at Delhi embassy, ambassador says

Ron Malka says impossible to know yet who was behind attack but ‘Iran is an option’; diplomatic mission’s activities continuing under high alert as investigation proceeds

Police close off a street after an explosion near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi on January 29, 2021. (Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)
Police close off a street after an explosion near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi on January 29, 2021. (Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

Israel’s ambassador to India said Sunday that Iran is a possible suspect in a bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in Delhi last week, which was close enough that it was felt in the mission and could have caused much more damage.

A bombing near the embassy Friday blew out the windows on three nearby cars, but did not cause any casualties. Indian and Israeli authorities are investigating it as a likely attack directed against the embassy.

“We do know so far that it was a terror act aimed at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, but the investigation is ongoing,” Ron Malka told The Times of Israel.

“The explosion was heard clearly inside the embassy; it was very close, a few meters,” Malka said. “It could have ended differently and caused a lot of damage.”

National Security Guard soldiers inspect the site of a blast near the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, India, Jan. 30, 2021 (AP Photo/Dinesh Joshi)

Indian media reports said investigators had found an envelope with a letter addressed to the Israeli ambassador in the street describing the low-intensity explosion as a “trailer” and making references to “Iranian martyrs” Qassem Soleimani and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. “We can end your life, anytime, anywhere,” the letter read.

“Currently it is impossible to know for certain who the perpetrators were,” Malka added. “Iran is an option. But… we have to wait for an investigation and conclusions.”

Soleimani, considered Iran’s most powerful military commander, was killed in a US drone strike in January 2020. Fakhrizadeh, one of the country’s top nuclear scientists, was killed in November — an assassination for which Iran blamed Israel.

Indian police forensics experts investigating the scene after an explosion tore through a car belonging to the Israel Embassy in New Delhi, India (photo credit: AP/Kevin Frayer/File)
Indian police forensics experts investigating the scene after an explosion tore through a car belonging to the Israel Embassy in New Delhi, India (photo credit: AP/Kevin Frayer/File)

In 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin blamed Iran for a bomb attack on an Israeli diplomatic car in Delhi that injured at least three people.

Hebrew-language media reported that a group called “Jaish ul-Hind” claimed responsibility for the Friday explosion in a statement posted on the Telegram messaging service.

According to a report by the Walla news site, the statement said the attack, which took place on the 29th anniversary of India-Israel ties, was in fact an act of revenge against the Indian government and that further attacks were expected, but with no mention of Israel.

“I have not heard of this organization to date. It is unfamiliar, from what I gather,” Malka said. “The Indians are conducting an investigation of how serious it is.”

He refused to confirm an Israeli report that the Mossad was also involved in the investigation.

Israeli Ambassador to India Ron Malka (Courtesy: Embassy of Israel New Delhi)

Malka said the embassy was already on high alert before the attack due to “threats.” He said that while diplomats were being cautious, they had not been cowed into shutting down activities.

“We are not grounded. We are out here on a diplomatic mission on behalf of the State of Israel and we know that the enemy views us as a target,” Malka told the Times of Israel on Sunday.

According to Malka, the embassy was deciding on future moves by performing “calculated risk management,” though tightened security remained in place while the investigation was ongoing.

Indian children wave to a vehicle carrying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they arrive at Sabarmati Ashram or Gandhi Ashram in Ahmadabad, India, Jan. 17, 2018. (AP/Ajit Solanki)

“This time, we were ready. We raised our level of awareness due to recent threats so we were not very surprised. We are also dealing with the danger of COVID-19, hence things are limited as it is,” he said.

Malka noted that the Indians were investing much effort into investigating the attack and raising security for Israeli diplomats in the country, thanks to close ties between Jerusalem and Delhi.

“We are surrounded by more cops, more soldiers,” he said.

“The Indians are very vigilant, they improved their responses [since the 2008 Mumbai attacks] and mainly they blame Pakistan, for supporting and financing terrorism,” he said. “India is as vulnerable to terrorist attacks as other Asian countries.”

“There is definitely concern and we are troubled,” he added. “But we received piles of sympathy from all over India and Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called to support and encourage me. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi called. and the head of the National Security Council, [Meir] Ben Shabbat. We have received thousands of calls and messages with encouragement.”

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