SOFIA, Bulgaria – Israel vowed Wednesday to strike back at Iran, blaming the Islamic Republic for a brazen daylight bombing that targeted a bus full of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria and killed at least seven people.
President Obama termed it a barbaric terrorist attack. The U.S. leader called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express his sorrow over the attack and pledged assistance to bring the perpetrators to justice, according to statements from the two leaders offices.
The bombing in a quiet Black Sea resort town was the latest in a series of attacks attributed to Iran that have targeted Israelis and Jews overseas and threatened to escalate a shadow war between the two archenemies. Iran has denied involvement in the past but did not comment on Wednesdays bombing.
The violence also came against the broader backdrop of the international standoff with Iran over its nuclear program. Israel, accusing Iran of developing nuclear weapons, has repeatedly hinted it is prepared to strike Iranian nuclear targets if Tehran does not curb its suspect program.
The blast gutted the bus at the airport in the Black Sea city of Burgas, some 250 miles east of the capital, Sofia. The Israelis had just landed at the beginning of their vacation.
Black smoke billowed into the sky from the stricken bus after the bomb exploded. Young Israelis said they were just boarding when the explosion ripped through the white vehicle in the airport parking lot. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at least seven people were killed.
The resort town has become a popular travel destination in recent years for Israelis, particularly for recent high school graduates before they are drafted for mandatory military service.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which wounded 30 others. But suspicion immediately fell upon Iran and its Lebanese proxy, the Hezbollah guerrilla group.
The attack came exactly 18 years after the bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina that killed 85 people. An Argentine investigation concluded Iran was behind that attack. In addition, Israel has accused Iran of being behind a string of attacks in Europe, Asia and Africa in recent months.
All signs point to Iran, Netanyahu said after Wednesdays explosion. Just in the past few months, we have seen attempts by Iran to harm Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and more. This is an Iranian terror attack that is spreading across the world. Israel will react forcefully to Irans terror.
The Israeli leader gave no evidence to back his charges.
In the past, Iran has accused Israel of being behind a series of covert attacks on Iranian nuclear targets, ranging from the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists to mysterious computer viruses that have damaged Iranian centrifuges.