Sunday, April 22, 2018

Israelis bury 5 victims of Bulgaria attack

Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Devastated mourners grasped at dirt atop fresh graves and screamed in agony Friday as they buried the five Israeli victims of a bombing in Bulgaria — an attack that Israel has blamed on Iran and its proxy group Hezbollah.

Two days after the deadly blast in a popular vacation spot, investigators in Bulgaria and in several other countries still were struggling to confirm the attacker's identity.

Bulgarian prosecutors said the attacker had short hair, not the long hair seen in the security video footage captured of him at the airport. A witness said he appeared to be wearing a wig.

The victims' coffins were received early Friday in a military ceremony at Israel's international airport. Seventeen Israelis remain in hospitals.

Childhood friends Itzik Kolengi, 28, and Amir Menashe, 27, were buried in the central Israeli town of Petah Tikva.

Kolengi's wife, Gilat, was wounded in the attack and remains hospitalized. The couple has an infant daughter.

"I promise you that the family and I will watch forever over your wife, Gilat, and your amazing daughter, Noya, who looks exactly like you, and we'll raise her just as you would have wanted," Kolengi's brother David said during his eulogy.

Menashe's wife, who was also wounded in the attack, attended the funeral in a wheelchair. They too have an infant son.

Nearby, in Rishon Lezion, hundreds of mourners joined the family of Cochava Shriki, a 42-year-old woman who had recently become pregnant after years of fertility treatments.

In the northern Israeli town of Acre, Maor Harush, 26, and his close friend Elior Price, 24, were laid to rest. A third friend remains hospitalized in serious condition.

Israeli and American officials have blamed the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah for Wednesday's bombing, which killed five vacationing Israelis, along with a Bulgarian bus driver and the attacker, in the Black Sea resort town of Burgas.

In TV interviews Friday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he was certain who carried it out.

"Hezbollah is behind the attack, it was part of a series of attacks," he told Israel's Channel 2 TV. "We know that Iran is behind it all. What we don't know is who the actual man is."

Iran denied responsibility for the attack.

Security camera footage from before the attack showed the suspected bomber wandering in and out of the terminal, wearing a baseball cap over long hair, a T-shirt and plaid shorts, with a bulky backpack.

Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters the bomb was in the backpack and detonated in the luggage compartment of the bus. The bomber was believed to have been about 36 years old and had been in the country between four to seven days, he said.

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