The five Israelis who were killed during the terror attack on a tour bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, on Wednesday have been identified as: Itzik Kolengi (28) from Petah Tikva, Amir Menashe (28), also from Petah Tikva, Maor Harush (25) from Akko, Elior Priess (26) from Akko and Kochava Shriki (44), of Rishon Lezion.
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Thursday noon saw a military plane safely return the 32 Israelis who were wounded in the attack to Israel. Around 10:30 pm, another C-130, which was sent to Sofia, arrived in Israel carrying three Israelis who suffered serious injuries in the explosion.
Victims caskets at BG Airports (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
A military service, led by Chief Military Rabbi Brigadier-General Avi Peretz, was held in the victims' honor at the Ben Gurion International Airport. Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov served as the State's representative.
Misezhnikov conveyed the government's condolences to the families: "We stand before these five caskets and our hearts bleed. Words cannot offer any true comfort… They were killed for the simple sin of being Israeli and Jewish."
His words were met with the families' broken sobs.
Kochava Shriki will be laid to rest on Friday, at the Old Cemetery in Rishon Lezion. Itzik Kolengi and Amir Menashe will be laid to rest at the Segula Cemetery in Petah Tikva. Maor Harush and Elior Priess will be laid to rest on Friday, at the Akko Cemetery.
The tragedy was compounded by news that Shriki had recently became pregnant with her first child, after years of fertility treatments. Shriki spoke to her sister before leaving for Burgas with her husband.
"Kochava told me she was pregnant and that they were very happy," recalled the sister, Yael Morad. "A short while later we heard of the terror attack. We thought she was alive until we were informed she was on the missing persons list."
The sister said Kochava was an "amazing woman who was crazy about children."
Yitzhak, the husband, said "we boarded the bus and sat in the fourth row. I suddenly felt a strong blast from the left. I fell to the floor and was in a haze for about 20 seconds, until I was finally able to get up – but I was still dizzy.
Victims' families at BG Airport (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
"I walked toward the exit and yelled to my wife 'walk towards the door.' But after a few seconds I noticed she was not by my side. The smoke was very thick – like sand. I wanted to go back and look for her but the passage was blocked," he recounted.
"I waited at the terminal and requested to be evacuated to the hospital – hoping I would find her there. When I saw that she wasn't there, I asked the ambassador and Magen David Adom representatives to help me locate her, I gave them photos of her, but to no avail. When I returned to Israel I understood she was killed. They told me the prime minister wants to console me – that's when I knew she didn't survive. She was in the first stages of her pregnancy. I wanted her to rest and gather strength – and it ended in disaster."
Preiss and Harush were childhood friends. Kolengi and his wife Gilat celebrated the birth of their first daughter just four months ago and were looking forward to a long weekend away with their good friends Amir Menashe and his wife Natali.
Gilat sustained serious wounds on the attack, while Natali was lightly injured.
Shahar Chai and Tomer Velmer contributed to this report
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