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Saturday, July 23, 2016
Correspondents* - IPS/Al Jazeera
- Israeli diplomats have been targeted by car bombs in India and Georgia, leaving three injured and Israel’s foreign minister promising a response.
An Israeli embassy car exploded in New Delhi, the Indian capital, injuring an Israeli diplomat and three other people, but it was not immediately known whether the explosion was caused by a bomb, officials said.
The Indian Foreign Ministry did not identify the wounded, but officials said the driver and a diplomat’s wife were injured.
Another Israeli embassy vehicle was targeted in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, where the car’s driver found a package attached to the undercarriage and police discovered and defused a grenade.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, blamed Iran for the attacks on the Israeli embassy staff.
“(Iran) is the biggest exporter of terror in the world,” Netanyahu told members of his rightwing Likud party.
The Israeli leader said there had been a number of attempts to harm Israelis and Jews in recent months, in places such as Thailand and Azerbaijan, in a series of attacks coordinated by Tehran and Lebanon’s Shia movement, Hezbollah.
“In all these incidents, those responsible were Iran and its protege Hezbollah,” he said.
Israel would continue to act “with a firm hand” to stamp out “international terror coming from Iran”, he said.
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, told reporters in Jerusalem he knows “exactly who is responsible for the attack and who planned it”.
“We’re not going to take it lying down,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry, reporting from Jerusalem, said the attacks were “near simultaneous”.
“That is going to lend weight to those who will point the finger at a larger organisation, maybe even a country like Iran, maybe Hezbollah,” Perry said.
Iran rejected the accusations as “sheer lies”, the official IRNA news agency quoted the Islamic Republic’s ambassador to New Delhi as saying.
“Any terrorist attack is condemned (by Iran) and we strongly reject the untrue comments by an Israeli official,” Mehdi Nabizadeh was quoted as saying by IRNA.
“These accusations are untrue and sheer lies, like previous times.”
Al Jazeera’s Prerna Suri, reporting from New Delhi, said the targeted vehicle there was parked down the street from the Israeli embassy in a high security area, about a kilometre away from the prime minister’s residence.
“Witnesses described how the car exploded in flames. One side of the car had been completely charred. The bonnet had been flung open and exploded in flames.
“Other witnesses described two people on motor bikes throwing some kind of device (at the car), and police are trying to find out what kind of device that was. Indian forensic teams as well as Israeli embassy staff are at the scene of the incident, trying to piece together what exactly has happened,” our correspondent said.
David Goldfarb, Israeli embassy spokesman, said that one of the occupants in the car was an Israeli diplomat, but declined to identify him.
A photograph on NDTV showed the Toyota station wagon engulfed in flames in the middle of the road. Later television footage showed the vehicle burnt out and the area cordoned off by police.
“There was an explosion in an Israeli diplomat’s car but we don’t know how it happened,” Goldfarb said. “We are in constant contact with the local authorities.”
Shota Uitashvili, spokesman for the Georgian Interior Ministry, said the car in Tbilisi was in a car park about 200 metres from the embassy, where the driver had parked it in the morning after coming from his home.
As Perry points out, Israeli embassies had already been on high alert for potential attacks.
“It was four years ago, almost to the day, on Feb. 12 that Imad Mughniyah, the military leader of Hezbollah, was assassinated in Damascus and Hezbollah has been warning that they will retaliate for this assassination and has always pointed the finger at Israel,” Perry said.
“All of Israel’s embassies were on high alert starting on the 12th as a normal course of security every year. But this is the first year that we have seen simultaneous attacks on foreign soil, which was also something that Hezbollah said it would do.”
*Published under an agreement with Al Jazeera.