Breaking: Multiple Israeli Tourists Killed in Bulgaria Bus Explosion
Israeli tour bus targeted; over 20 injured
Attention: Please see the bottom of the page for live updates as they come.
Multiple Israelis have been confirmed dead and over 20 injured thus far after an alleged terror attack in Bulgaria targeted an Israeli tour bus travelling in the city of Burgas earlier today, according to Ynet.
A Bulgarian television station is reporting that the death toll has now reached seven, as 33 others have been evacuated to a local hospital.
The bus exploded at the Sarafovo airport terminal after Israeli tourists who had arrived in Bulgaria at 4:45 p.m. had boarded.
Whether the blast was caused by a suicide bomber or a bomb is still unknown.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has confirmed the casualties, but will not yet declare it a terror attack.
The ministry has set up a special team in its situation room to monitor the events after Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called an immediate meeting.
Liberman has been in contact with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov regarding the explosion.
Mladenov, who headed to the site of the blast, said he would bring Liberman up to date upon his arrival. The Israeli embassy in Bulgaria is also participating in the issue, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“An explosion occurred in a passenger’s bus with Israeli citizens at the Burgas Airport,” Dimitar Nikoliv, Mayor of Burgas told a local radio station.
An eyewitness told Channel 2 News in Israel that Bulgarian authorities were slow to respond to the event.
Search and rescue teams and the paramedics “didn’t seem to care too much,” said the witness. “They took a while getting these two small fire-extinguishers to fight a burning bus, and the airport's fire truck took over 15 minutes to get there.”
Bulgarian security forces and emergency medical teams have blocked off the area and the airport has been shut down.
Today marks the anniversary of the 1994 terror attack on a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, a bombing in which no one was ever convicted.
Updates (with files from Haaretz, Reuters, Twitter and Facebook):
-Shosh Eyler, who was on one of the buses that escaped the blast, told Ynet that the explosion took place seconds after the groups boarded the buses. "The bus next to ours just exploded," she said. "There was smoke everywhere and people were running hysterically. We got off the bus and local security officers got everyone into the terminal immediately."
-A news agency in Bulgaria is now reporting that most of the passengers on the bus were teenagers.
-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is claiming that Iran is responsible for the attacks.
Netanyahu's full statement: "All the signs with regards to the terror atrocity in Bulgaria lead to Iran. Only in recent months we have witnessed attempts by Iran to injure Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus etc...Precisely 18 years since the car bomb atrocity against the Jewish community building in Argentina the murderous Iranian terror continues to strike innocent people. This is an Iranian terror onslaught that is spreading throughout the entire world. Israel will respond forcefully to Iranian terror."
-In response, to the attack, David Koschitzky, Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), made the following statement:
“We offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and our prayers for a full recovery for all those maimed in this brazen attack. It is important to note that today marks the anniversary of the notorious 1994 attack on a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires – the worst bombing in Argentina’s history. Combined with the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre, it is clear that the one constant of terrorism is that Jews around the world remain a favoured target. We are hopeful that authorities will be successful in their pursuit of those responsible for today’s attack, and demonstrate that terrorists and their overseers will face justice – not impunity – for such atrocities.”
-The Israeli tour company, Kavei Hufsha, which was in charge of the trip to Bulgaria issued a statement:
“In accordance with the information that we have received from our local representative in Burgus, an explosion took place on a bus which drove our tourists near the airport. We have sent our representatives to the airport as well as to the nearby hospital in order to provide any assistance. At the same time, we are sending our representatives from Israel on the first flight which is set to leave after midnight."
-Bulgarian news agency reports 30 wounded in the attack and four are in serious condition.
-Michal, the mother of Ron Parhan who flew to Bulgaria on Wednesday, told Haaretz that her daughter called her in panic, and said that someone blew himself up on the bus. “She sustained cuts and was bleeding, they removed her through the window of the bus. She was hysterical, and is there without a cell phone, so she could not say much."
-Burgus Mayor Dimitar Nikolov tells Bulgarian media that nine Israelis are still missing.
-Several internet sites in Bulgaria report that Bulgarian government authorities ignored warnings and alerts by Israeli and Russian sources over a possible attack.
-Among wounded are two pregnant women, 11-year-old girl.
-Bulgarian interior minister says explosion was deliberate attack.
-Two Israeli relief planes have landed in Bulgaria, according to local authorities.
-Hezbollah has denied any connection to the attack.