On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia, perpetrated the suicide attack against Israeli tourists in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists.
“All signs point towards Iran,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Deadly Iranian terrorism continues to strike at innocent people. This is a global Iranian terror onslaught, and Israel will react firmly to it.”
The Foreign Minister said the deadly bus explosion in Bulgaria that has killed at least six people was the result of terrorists detonating a bomb placed on the vehicle filled with vacationing civilian, according to a Washington Post report.
He called Hezbollah Iran’s leading terrorist proxy,” and called on world powers to “make it clear that Iran is the country that stands behind this terror campaign.”
Iranian state media called the Israeli accusations “baseless” and “ridiculous.”
The attack Wednesday killed five Israelis, the Bulgarian bus driver and the bomber, according to Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov. Investigators reportedly used DNA to try to identify the bomber.
Bulgarian news media are reporting that the bomber was a former Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) detainee and identified him as Mehdi Ghezali, a Swedish national. Reports say U.S. forces captured Ghezali during a 2001 battle in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, and that he was released from Guantanamo in 2004.
However the identity of the bomber, who Bulgarian officials said carried a fake Michigan driver’s license, was not confirmed by Israeli or Bulgarian authorities. Video surveillance footage released Thursday by Bulgaria showed a lanky, long-haired man wearing a baseball cap, plaid shorts and a T-shirt and blended easily into the crowd at the airport in the Black Sea resort city of Burgas. Officials in Bulgaria have linked that man to the bombing.
In Washington, officials confirmed Thursday that Ghezali was a former Guantanamo detainee but could not say whether he carried out the bombing.
The attack has escalated tensions between Israel and Iran just as Israel is threatening military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Iran has defied all American and international efforts to stop its nuclear program and talks have stalled as Iran presumably continues work on its nuclear program.
Thursday, Israeli officials reiterated earlier statements saying that the country would retaliate swiftly and firmly as more exact information about who is behind the attack became available. Analysts said they expected Israel to respond covertly at a time of their choosing.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on radio that his country would “settle the account.”
In Iran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Israel was “leveling baseless accusations to divert global attention” from what Mehmanparast claims are Israel’s own terrorist actions.
As the rest of the world sanctions Iran year after year over its nuclear program to no avail, Israel has allegedly assassinated five Iranian scientists since 2010 in an effort to slow Iran’s progress in developing its nuclear capability.