7 Killed in Bulgaria Terror Attack |

Israel Has No Doubt About Who Is Behind the Deadly Attack in Bulgaria

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Amos Harel
Amos Harel

The government didn't hesitate to point a finger on Wednesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, apparently supported by detailed intelligence, immediately blamed Iran for the terror attack on Israelis in Bulgaria that killed seven people.

If this is so, the man behind the attack in Burgas would be Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, who operates the Guards' overseas operations. Hezbollah assists Quds, but the Lebanese group has been less effective since Imad Mughniyeh's assassination in 2008.

Suleimani has had his share of failures in recent years. Yesterday's attack was Iran and Hezbollah's first triumph after a series of mistakes.

Since Mughniyeh's assassination - which Iran and Hezbollah attribute to Israel - Israel's intelligence community has foiled dozens of attempted revenge attacks throughout the world. Foreign media reports, some of which were officially confirmed in Israel, told of terror attacks that were thwarted in Turkey, Greece, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Thailand, Kenya and other countries.

Only last week, Cyprus exposed an Iranian-Lebanese attempt to gather intelligence ahead of an attack on Israeli tourists on the island. A short time before that, Iranians were arrested in Kenya on suspicion of planning a similar attack. In February, Iran set off an explosion in India, wounding an Israeli diplomat's wife. But similar attacks in Thailand and Georgia failed.

Mughniyeh's assassination provided the first incentive for revenge. It was followed by assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and sabotage acts on Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran also attributes at least partly to Israel. Feeling bound to react, Iran now has targeted tourists in East Europe, at a site extremely popular among Israelis where they could easily be identified.

The Shin Bet security service, already stretched thin protecting Israel's embassies, planes and delegations worldwide, can't protect every Israeli group of tourists. Israel can only upgrade agreements with local security services and police forces in countries deemed most dangerous to Israelis and hope for the best.

Most terror attacks will be foiled due to early intelligence, not by posting a security guard on every tourist bus. The alert at potential Israeli targets was raised yesterday on the assumption the Burgas attack was the beginning of a coordinated assault on several targets.

Netanyahu warned on Wednesday of "an Iranian terror attack spreading throughout the world." He promised that "Israel will retaliate forcefully." But if anyone imagines the air force showering bombs of revenge on Iranian nuclear sites or Hezbollah's headquarters in Lebanon, he'll have to be patient.

The temptation to make a historical analogy (the attempted assassination of ambassador Shlomo Argov in London, which triggered the 1982 Lebanon war ) is not relevant here. It seems Hezbollah is only a supporting actor in yesterday's incident. The nuclear project is of course very important, but we don't need hasty revenge for a bus bombing, as infuriating and outrageous as it may be.

The struggle between Iran and Israel will probably continue, mainly under the surface, until a decision is made on how to deal with the nuclear issue. Apart from the fear of other attacks abroad, yesterday's events are worrying because of the region's increasing lack of stability. Assad's regime hangs in the balance, Iran is allegedly responsible for killing Israelis abroad, and Israel is approaching decision time on the Iranian nuclear threat. In view of all this, the chances that this summer we'll be able to focus on the social protest and on drafting the ultra-Orthodox are dwindling.

A screenshot of Burgas airport, Bulgaria taken from Google Maps.
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An Israeli tourist is helped as she arrives to Burgus hospital after a bus carrying Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian resort city of Burgus exploded Wednesday, July 18, 2012.Credit: AP
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Bulgaria's President Rosen Plevneliev walks near the site of an explosion at Bulgaria's Burgas airport July 18, 2012. Credit: Reuters
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A man and a woman react after an explosion at Bulgaria's Burgas airport July 18, 2012.Credit: Reuters