The terror attack at the Bulgaria airport is an almost exact repeat of the attack thwarted by Bulgarian security forces in January of this year. Back then, a bus full of Israeli tourists was supposed to be blown up using explosives snuck into it. Yet this time around there was no warning, and the murderous terror attack was not curbed. The flight in question was a Bulgarian charter, and such flights - as well as the buses that carry their passengers - are not secured.
By looking into the hallmarks of the bomb, it would be possible to determine who stands behind it. Apparently, it’s Hezbollah’s terror apparatus in conjunction with the al-Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary guards. These elements tend to make use of local infrastructure, that is, collaborators who help people arriving from the outside or who carry out the attack.
The bombing thwarted in January of this year was the work of Hezbollah members planning to avenge the 2008 assassination of Imad Mugniyah, the group’s operational chief. Mugniyah murdered dozens of Israelis and hundreds of Americans, and his assassination constituted a grave blow for both Hezbollah and Iran. He was also one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s loyalists.
Yet this time around, there was clearly an intelligence gap that must be looked into. This is not necessarily a failure, because in the field of counter-terrorism, as the case in other areas, some intentions and plans occasionally slip by spy agencies, including the most advanced ones.
We can also assume that Hezbollah’s international terror apparatus drew lessons from the failures it and Iran sustained in the past year, when they attempted to operate in Thailand, Tbilisi and in other sites in Asia in order to avenge the killings of Iranian nuclear scientists.
About two months ago, a terror warning was issued regarding a possible attack in Bulgaria, but it was withdrawn. It is also unclear whether Bulgarian police merely thwarted the January attack, or also detained and questioned the perpetrators – and if so, were they also questioned by other spy agencies. All of this must be examined in order to draw lessons.
The more burning question at this time is how Israel will respond to the attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to do it “in force,” and Jerusalem officials previously declared that they will hold Hezbollah responsible for any attack on Israelis overseas, which will be treated as if it targeted Israelis in Israeli territory.
However, given the current situation in the Middle East, which is both uncertain and sensitive, much thought should be invested here.
The elements that require reconsideration are the Iranian nuke issue currently on the agenda, including the possibility of a military operation; a possible collapse of the Syrian regime, which greatly concerns Hezbollah and Iran and may prompt both to act in an unpredictable manner; and, of course, the still unstable regime in Egypt and the sensitive situation in Jordan.
All of the above require Israel to carefully consider whether to respond now, or wait for an opportune time and then settle the score with the perpetrators via a surgical strike.