WASHINGTON -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he had “absolutely rock solid intelligence” that Lebanon-based Hezbollah, supported by Iran, carried out the suicide bombing in Bulgaria last week that killed seven people, including five Israelis.
Netanyahu, who blamed Iran and its agents immediately after an Israeli tour bus in the Bulgarian resort city of Burgas exploded Wednesday, didn’t provide new details supporting his allegation, saying on “Fox News Sunday” that the identity of the bomber was “being pieced together right now.”
But in appearances on Fox and CBS’s “Face the Nation,” the Israeli leader said the attack in Bulgaria, which also injured more than 30 people, was patterned in the same way as a foiled plot in Cyprus earlier in July by a Hezbollah operative.
"You'd think, you'd surmise intelligently, that if Hezbollah, backed by Iran, did this in Cyprus a week earlier, the same modus operandi repeats itself in Bulgaria," he told CBS.
"The prime minister of Israel sees more than that," Netanyahu added. "We have unquestionable, fully substantiated intelligence that this was done by Hezbollah backed by Iran."
Iranian and Hezbollah officials have denied any role in the bombing, and no group has claimed responsibility.
The U.S. hasn’t publicly blamed Hezbollah or Iran. Bulgarian officials have said they were working closely with Israel and the United States to identify the bomber, who is believed to have carried a U.S. passport and a Michigan driver's license.
Pressed by Fox’s Chris Wallace to give hard evidence that Hezbollah was behind the attack, Netanyahu said: “We certainly give it to the appropriate agencies, friendly agencies in the world.”
Asked about Israel’s planned response to the Bulgarian attack, or whether a retaliation would be linked to Israel’s efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program, Netanyahu gave no specifics. Instead, he spoke about Iran’s record of terrorist attacks over the last two years and how that underscored why Iran should not be allowed to have powerful bombs.
Iran has said its nuclear program is for civilian use, and has accused Israel of orchestrating the assassination of several of its top scientists working on the country's nuclear technologies.
-- Don Lee
Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on Sunday. Credit: Gali Tibbon / AFP/Getty Images