Attack on Israeli tourists kills at least six in Bulgaria — By Diana Simeonova | AFP

July 19, 2012

An explosion ripped through a bus carrying Israeli holiday-makers in Bulgaria and killed at least six people on Wednesday in an attack the government in Israel blamed on arch foe Iran.

More than 30 people were wounded in the attack against touristsheaded for Bulgarian Black Sea resorts that also left two nearby buses in flames.

Witnesses described how panicked passengers jumped from bus windows and bodies lay strewn on the ground with their clothes torn off as ambulance sirens wailed and black smoke rose over Sarafovo airport in Burgas.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said “this terrible incident is a shock to us all… The government condemns the aggression and terrorism”.

Israel said it had been informed by Bulgaria that seven people were killed, while Bulgarian interior ministry officials in Sofia put the death toll at six, with 32 wounded.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “Israel will respond forcefully to Iranian terror” after an official in Jerusalem said the bus was shot at and an explosive thrown.

“In the past few months we have seen attempts by Iran to harm Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other places.”

The foreign ministry’s deputy spokesman Paul Hirschson told AFP that “the vast majority of the dead and the injured are Israelis,” although the nationalities of the casualties had not been listed.

The attack — the deadliest on Israelis abroad since 2004, and the first on Bulgarian soil against Israelis — drew strong condemnation from its staunchest ally the United States, as well as from France and Britain.

US President Barack Obama condemned the “barbaric terrorist attack”.

Obama did not mention Iran in his written statement but reaffirmed America’s “unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, and our deep friendship and solidarity with the Israeli people.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and injured, and with the people of Israel, Bulgaria, and any other nation whose citizens were harmed in this awful event,” he said.

“These attacks against innocent civilians, including children, are completely outrageous. The United States will stand with our allies, and provide whatever assistance is necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack.”

Obama called Netanyahu and expressed his condolences, while both leaders “agreed that Israel and the United States would work together to investigate the attack,” said an Israeli government statement.

Netanyahu told Obama that Iran and Hezbollah were waging a global terror campaign, the statement said, and he told the US president that “Iran is a state of global terror. It must bear the consequences of that.”

Pictures from Burgas showed plumes of black smoke rising over the airport, which was closed after the attack. Television showed ambulances rushing people to hospital and women crying.

“I was on the bus and we had just sat down when, after a few seconds, we heard a really loud explosion,” one Israeli tourist, Gal Malka, told Israeli army radio. “The whole bus went up in flames.”

Aviva, another Israeli woman on a nearby bus, told the radio that “there are seven dead people,” adding that she saw people whose clothes had been blown off and bodies lying on the floor.

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

The Israeli military said it was sending a medical team to Bulgaria “in order to provide medical care and to assist those injured in returning to Israel,” a statement said.

Burgas mayor Dimitar Nikolov, who was at the airport at the time, said the blast happened as tourists were boarding the bus and placing their bags in the luggage compartment.

The blast occurred around 1400 GMT on the bus carrying Israelis who had flown in to Burgas, the second largest city on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, setting off a fire that spread to another two buses, the ministry said.

Israeli media said many on the flight were young Israeli school-leavers who were just about to be drafted into the military.

The attack came on the 18th anniversary of an attack on a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people and wounded 300.

Israel also held Iran responsible back in 1994. The Islamic republic denied the charge and has accused Israel of being behind the assassinations of nuclear scientists and senior military figures in recent years.

Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast has become a popular holiday spot for Israelis, with almost 140,000 visiting the country in 2011.

In January, Israeli public television reported that Bulgarian authorities had foiled a bomb attack when they found an explosive device on a bus chartered to take Israeli tourists to a ski resort.

Bulgarian troops were deployed in several ski resorts frequented by Israeli tourists after the bomb was found, the report added.


Sephardic Jews Call for Truth on Bulgaria’s Role in Holocaust

July 19, 2012

Members of the Sephardic Jewish community plan to call on the Bulgarian government to reveal the truth about Jews it helped kill in the Holocaust.

By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/14/2011, 4:12 AM / Last Update: 2/14/2011, 7:54 AM

Members of the Sephardic Jewish community are calling on the government of Bulgaria to reveal the truth over its interaction with the Jews during the Holocaust.

A special address on this issue is planned to take place on March 1, 2011 at 7pm at The Sephardic Temple in Cedarhurst, New York, before an audience of community members, activists, scholars and Holocaust survivors.

March 1 was chosen as it is the 70th anniversary of the signing of the pact uniting Bulgaria with Germany as Axis partners. A special report will be released to the public on the same day by Sephardic historian, author and independent scholar, Shelomo Alfassa. Alfassa has documented how during World War II, the Bulgarian government was complicit in the dispossession, torture and murder of thousands of Jews, and has also documented how the Bulgarian government continues to whitewash this fact.

Alfassa has found that while it is frequently retold that the Bulgarian government chose not to deport some 50,000 Jews from Bulgaria to German death camps in Poland, it is not revealed that Bulgaria was also directly complicit in the murder of some 13,000 other Jews from their lands of Bulgarian Thrace and Macedonia. These were mostly Judeo-Spanish speaking Jews of Greek and Ottoman-Turkish descent.

“The Bulgarian government continues to pompously promote the fact that they ‘saved’ (did not deport) one group of Jews (50,000), while not disclosing the fact they indeed deported another group of Jews (13,000),” said Alfassa. “The latter group was sent to their deaths at Treblinka, a subject which is historically well documented.”

“These 13,000 Jews, which have been too often overlooked by history, suffered horrible deaths with the direct participation and knowledge of the Bulgarian government in their alliance and volunteer partnership with the Nazis,” said Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, President of the Association of Friends of Greek Jewry. “It is time for Bulgaria to set the record straight.”

The event on March 1 will, in fact, launch a larger campaign and will be subsequently followed by a Northeast Regional Colloquium that will be convened to discussremedies to what has been described as Bulgaria’s continued “whitewashing” of their direct role in the murder of the 13,000 Jews. The colloquium will likely be held during the month of June and will be entitled: “Ending 70 Years of Whitewashing and Inaccuracies: the Bulgarian Government and its Treatment of Jews During the Holocaust.”

Baird Offers Condolences After Deadly Explosion in Bulgaria

July 19, 2012

July 18, 2012 – Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the deadly terrorist attack on a bus carrying tourists, some of them from Israel, in the Bulgarian city of Burgas.

“On behalf of all Canadians, I offer our sincere condolences to those who lost loved ones in the deadly explosion. I wish a speedy recovery to those who were injured.

“Canada condemns such heinous acts without reservation and is confident that Bulgarian authorities will do all they can to ensure the perpetrators of this attack are brought to justice.”

Today’s deadly bombing comes on the 18th anniversary of the devastating attack on a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that killed 85 and injured hundreds more, for which Iranian officials and a Hezbollah operative have been accused by the Argentine judicial authorities. It is thus a sad reminder of the need to remain vigilant against anti-Semitic violence, which can strike anywhere around the world.

Minister Baird has referred to the fight against terrorism as the great struggle of this generation and has said that, too often, Israelis find themselves on the front lines of this struggle. Canada stands with freedom-loving countries around the world in condemning terrorism in all its forms.

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