In Bulgaria, Israel tour bus blast kills 7

Smoke can be seen over the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, where a tour bus carrying Israeli vacationers exploded, killing at least seven people.
(AFP/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM — An Israeli tour bus ferrying dozens of vacationers in the Bulgarian resort city of Burgas exploded Wednesday in an apparent terrorist attack, killing at least seven people and injuring more than 30.

Most of the victims were Israelis, including many young people who were preparing to spend their summer break in the Black Sea coastal town, a leading vacation destination for Israelis.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but Israeli and Bulgarian security officials suspected that a bomb was either hidden on the bus or in a piece of luggage.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately blamed Iran.

“All signs point towards Iran,” Netanyahu said. “This is a global Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react firmly to it.”

Israeli officials believe that Iran and its proxies, including the Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Gaza Strip-based Hamas, have been responsible for a string of attacks against Israeli targets in recent months, including bombing attempts in India and Georgia in February, and foiled plots in Cyprus and Kenya.

In the Indian attack, an Israeli diplomat’s wife and three others were injured near the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi when the car she was traveling in burst into flames. Witnesses told police a device had been planted on the vehicle by a man on a motorcycle. That incident occurred a month after an Iranian nuclear scientist was killed in Tehran by a bomb-wielding motorcyclist, an attack for which Iran has blamed Israel.

The bomb in Georgia, found under the car of an Israeli Embassy messenger, was defused without injuries.

Iranian officials issued no response to Wednesday’s incident, but have denied having any role in the attacks in India and Georgia. Hezbollah officials dismissed Israel’s assertions as “ridiculous.”

Tension between Iran and Israel has been rising over Tehran’s nuclear development program and Israel’s threat to bomb it. Israel says its archenemy is secretly trying to build a nuclear bomb that could be used against it. Iran says its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only.

After the explosion Wednesday, Israeli medics were dispatched to Bulgaria to assist in treating the victims, and all commercial flights from Tel Aviv to Bulgaria were canceled.

This year, Israel warned its citizens that they may be the target of a possible terrorist plot in Bulgaria and advised against travel to the country. Israel also asked Bulgarian security officials to beef up protection for Israeli visitors.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov called Netanyahu on Wednesday night to convey his condolences and vowed that Bulgaria would work with Israel to identify the perpetrators, according to Israeli officials.

The charter tour group had just arrived in Burgas and boarded three buses when the blast occurred.

“The bus next to ours just exploded,” witness Shosh Eyler, an Israeli who was on one of the buses that escaped damage, told the Israeli news site Ynet. “There was smoke everywhere and people were running hysterically.”

Several of the victims were teenagers who were looking forward to a summer vacation before beginning their mandatory military service.

The White House, without pointing the finger at Iran, condemned the attack “on innocent people, especially children, in the strongest possible terms.”