Last Updated: Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:46 am (KSA) 08:46 am (GMT)

Israel confirms attack on citizens in Bulgaria, says ‘all signs lead to Iran’

An Israeli survivor (C) is carried on a wheelchair to an ambulance as she leaves a hospital in the city of Burgas, some 400km (249 miles) east of Sofia. (Reuters)
An Israeli survivor (C) is carried on a wheelchair to an ambulance as she leaves a hospital in the city of Burgas, some 400km (249 miles) east of Sofia. (Reuters)

Israel on Wednesday confirmed that its citizens were targeted in an attack on tourists at Bulgaria’s Burgas airport, which Bulgarian officials said killed three people. However, Al Arabiya correspondent put the number at seven killed and 35 injured, mostly Israelis, including 3 in critical condition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for the deadly attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, warning that his country would “respond forcefully” to strikes by Tehran.

“All the signs lead to Iran,” he said in a statement on the blast which Bulgarian officials said killed three people. “Israel will respond forcefully to Iranian terror.”

The United States condemned the attack. “The United States condemns such attacks on innocent people, especially children, in the strongest possible terms,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

“What we know is that sometime close to 5:00 pm there was a flight that landed in Burgas, the passengers went onto a bus and then there was an explosion that we don't know the source of,” said Ilana Stein, deputy spokeswoman for the Israeli foreign ministry.

“What we know is that there are casualties and probably not only injured but also dead. We know that some were Israelis but we don't know if all of them were,” she told AFP.

Speaking to Israel's army radio, two Israeli tourists who were at the scene described the moment the blast occurred.

“I was on the bus and we had just sat down when after a few seconds we heard a really loud explosion,” Gal Malka told the station by phone from the airport, saying the explosion took place just outside the front of the bus.

“The whole bus went up in flames,” she said.

Aviva, another Israeli woman who was on a nearby bus, said she heard a “very loud explosion” and described seeing at least seven dead bodies.

“There are seven dead people,” the woman told the radio, adding that she saw people whose clothes had been blown off by the blast and bodies lying on the floor.

“It was just terrible, people were jumping out of the windows,” she said.

Shortly after the attack, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke with his Bulgarian counterpart who promised to update him on developments, the foreign ministry said.

And it said Israel was sending four diplomats to Bulgaria to coordinate.

Medics from Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency services were also preparing to fly out to help with the treatment and repatriation of wounded Israelis, the organization said.

The blast came on the anniversary of an attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people and wounded 300. The attack was blamed on Iran, which denied the charge.

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