July 20, 2012 – Six Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed Wednesday, and more than 35 injured in the explosion of a bus at the Burgas Airport in Bulgaria. The explosion occurred shortly after a chartered flight of Israeli teenagers landed from Tel Aviv. The 42 passengers, all from a single tour group, had just boarded their tour bus after arriving at the Sarafovo airport.
Bulgarian authorities established that a suicide bomber, carrying an apparently fake U.S. passport, blew up the bus. Shortly before the attack, security cameras caught the terrorist on tape
The Fund for the Victims of Terror, operated by The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and made possible by contributions from Jewish Federations across North America, will provide financial assistance to Israelis wounded in the attack in Bulgaria and to the families of those killed.
“Thanks to the generosity of all of our donors, Jewish Federation – working with JAFI – already has resources in place to help the victims and their families,” said Todd Stettner, Executive Vice President and CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City.
Kansas City-Bulgaria connection
Kansas City has a special connection with the Jewish community of Bulgaria, through a partnership forged between the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City 12 years ago.
“Kansas City’s Jewish community partnered with the Jewish communities in Bulgaria and Romania to help with everything from providing much-needed medication for children, to ensuring senior adults have the basic necessities they need to get them through the month,” said Todd Stettner, Executive Vice President and CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City.
"Given our long-term relationship with the Bulgarian Jewish community, we are shocked and saddened by the bus bombing targeting innocent young Israelis traveling in our partner community," said Stacey Belzer, Chair of the Israel & Overseas Committee of the Jewish Federation. "We have reached out to our friends and colleagues in Bulgaria to let them know we are thinking of them. And our condolences go out to the Israeli families who have suffered a death or serious injury in this terrible attack.”
A team of Israeli doctors and first responders, led by Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center Dir.-Gen. Prof. Gabriel Barbash, along with Foreign Affairs Ministry professionals and security personnel flew directly to Burgas the night of the bombing, and an extended team from Israel arrived the next morning. Shortly afterwards, Israel Air Force Hercules transport planes airlifted 32 of the wounded Israelis back to Israel. Another plane load of the injured were returned to Israel. An additional three Israeli victims in critical condition will remain hospitalized in Bulgaria, and will be under the care of several doctors from Bulgaria’s Jewish community, including Dr. Alek Oscar, a close friend to many in the Kansas City Jewish community.
Bulgaria’s Jewish community is responding in other ways to the attack as well.
“The Jewish community and the official authorities are taking all possible security measures to secure the Jewish buildings and the upcoming Jewish community events,” said Julia Dandolova, Director of JDC (American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee) programs in Bulgaria. JDC is one of the primary overseas partners of Jewish Federation. “The EL/AL security staff in Bulgaria are mainly members of the community and they are volunteering to support the upcoming activities as well.”
“Two years ago, the Bulgarian Prime Minister said that Bulgaria is not in any danger because Jews and Arabs here are on friendly terms. Today we see the result from this underestimation of the situation,” continued Dandolova.
The bombing marks the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires by Iranian agents that left 85 people dead.
Senior Israeli officials are already holding Iran and Hezbollah responsible for the attack. "All the signs lead to Iran. Only in the past few months we have seen Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other places," Netanyahu said in a statement. "This is an Iranian terror campaign that is spreading throughout the world, Israel will react powerfully against Iranian terror."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak added on the day of the bombing, "The defense establishment will work with all its might to find the perpetrators of this terrorist attack and those who sent them." "We have a long struggle with [terrorists] that has many successes and many difficult days. Today is such a difficult day."
Burials for the deceased took place today. Read on for more information.
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