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Jul 18, 2012 | 17:46 GMT

3 mins read

Bulgaria: Bomb Attack Kills Israeli Tourists

Bulgaria: Bomb Attack Kills Israeli Tourists
STR/AFP/GettyImages

An explosive device detonated July 18 outside an airport in Burgas, Bulgaria. The attack targeted tour buses carrying Israeli citizens. Reports indicate that up to eight individuals were killed in the attack and that as many as three buses were damaged by the blast. The extent of the damage is unclear, but pictures of the scene suggest that the explosion was relatively small and that most of the damage was caused by resulting fire, so few if any additional casualties are expected.

So far, available details suggest the attack is part an ongoing trend in which Hezbollah militants target Israelis abroad. Indeed, Israeli citizens have been subject to several attacks that Israeli and local authorities blame on Iranian-backed Hezbollah operatives. All these attacks are part of a larger covert war between Iran and the West that has involved attacks against Iranian nuclear scientists, the conflict in Syria and efforts to contain Iran's regional rise.

Attack Against Israeli Tourists in Bulgaria

Notably, authorities foiled most of the previous attacks, including those in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Thailand. Prior to the July 18 incident, the only successful attack took place in New Delhi, India, where an Israeli diplomat was targeted for assassination. Israeli officials already were concerned that an attack would take place in Bulgaria. In January, officials requested greater attention from Bulgarian authorities after a suspicious package was found aboard a bus carrying Israeli tourists to Turkey. Unconfirmed Israeli reports said the package was an explosive device.

The July 18 attack comes shortly after yet another thwarted attack against Israelis abroad. On July 14, Cypriot authorities announced the July 7 arrest of a 24-year-old man of Lebanese descent who was plotting to attack a bus carrying Israeli tourists. The following day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hezbollah and Iran of orchestrating the plot. The Cyprus plot shows that Iran and its allies have resorted to targeting tourist buses in this series of attacks.

For its part, the attack in Bulgaria shows the danger of intelligence gaps in such a threat environment. Cypriot authorities were able to prevent the attack with the help of Israel, which has a strong intelligence presence in Cyprus. However, in Bulgaria, Israel's presence is less extensive.

The timing of the Bulgaria attack is also notable. Iran is likely using its militant proxies in response to the intensifying rebel campaign against the Syrian regime. Similar plots targeting Israelis and others can be expected as the Syrian regime continues to weaken.

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