At least seven people were killed in an attack on an Israeli tour bus at the Sarafovo International Airport in the Bulgarian vacation city of Bourgas on Wednesday afternoon. Some news reports put the number of fatalities as high as 10.
According to initial reports, a bomb was placed in the bus, detonating to murderous effect. The impact was so strong as to damage two other buses nearby, also with Israelis on board. Some initial reports said the attack was a suicide bombing, but the preliminary investigation pointed to the bomb having been placed in a suitcase in the vehicle’s luggage hold.
Nearly all the casualties were understood to be Israelis. A Bulgarian tour guide was also said to be among the dead.
Israel Police and the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry confirmed over 30 people were injured in the attack.
Israel canceled all planes to Bulgaria.
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)
A Bulgarian charter plane with 170 passengers from Tel Aviv to Bourgas landed at 4:50 p.m. local time, and its passengers boarded buses to take them from the plane to the terminal. The explosion occurred a short time later.
The White House condemned the attack “on innocent people, especially children, in the strongest possible terms.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Barack Obama’s “thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and injured.” Carney added that the US stood with the Israeli people and the people of Bulgaria.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “All the signs point to Iran. Just in the last few months, we saw Iran attempting to hurt Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other countries. Exactly 18 years after the infernal terror attack in the Jewish community center in Argentina [in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed], the murderous terror of the Iranians continues to hurt innocent people. This is terrorist Iranian aggression revealing itself all over the world. Israel will respond forcefully to the Iranian terror.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, too, placed the blame squarely on Iran and Hezbollah. ”We will know how to get to those who are responsible,” he said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Channel 2 News that Israel would not only “submit a complaint about Iran to the UN Security Council” but push for sanctions against the country– “not only for its nuclear program but because of its terror activities.” He said Israel would seek to ground Iran’s planes and push for its citizens to be prohibited from touring countries around the world.
Some reports said three pregnant women were on the bus. Initial rumors that members of an Israeli youth basketball team was present at the scene of the tragedy were dispelled.
Aron Katz, an Israeli eyewitness, said that a few moments after they got on the bus, “we heard a really loud boom, and felt the bus shake, and we ran off the bus.”
Katz noted that he saw several couples on the bus, some with young children. “I tried to get back on the bus after the explosion to get my daughter’s wheelchair, but they wouldn’t let me. I saw a woman lying unconscious, and tried to wake her,” Katz said, adding that the scene was very chaotic.
The Bourgas airport was subsequently closed and all flights were redirected to Varna.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman spoke to his Bulgarian counterpart, Nickolay Mladenov, after the explosion, and briefed him on the situation.
Mladenov and Israeli ambassador to Bulgaria Shaul Camisa Raz were on their way to the site.
Already present were Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and Health Minister Desislava Atanasova.
Arthur Kol, in charge of communications at the Foreign Ministry, said Bulgaria had not received any prior intelligence from Israel about a possible attack.
Idan Ruben, a local tour guide in Bourgas, told Channel 10 that the bomb went off “as soon as people entered the bus.” He said the bus was filled with 44 people, all Israelis, and most of them youths.
ZAKA and Magen David Adom were sending planes to Bourgas, and MDA may try to fly the wounded home to Israel for treatment.
Iran and its proxy, Lebanese-based terror group Hezbollah, were the immediate prime suspects in the attack. Israel has thwarted numerous Hezbollah terror attacks in recent years. Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV station was broadcasting details of the bombing, with excited commentary, on Wednesday evening, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
As for why I’m not liveblogging it, besides the lack of time and will, Twitter really is the place to go for the latest updates. Plus now the big boys like Ha’aretz and the Times of Israel have started to liveblog.
Only 6 or so years late, mind you.
Update: “Buses do occasionally catch fire.”
About the AuthorAn Australian immigrant to Israel, Aussie Dave has been blogging since early 2003.
Filed Under: Aussie Dave