NEW YORK, July 17, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC remembers the Israeli and Bulgarian victims of the Hezbollah terrorist bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria. On the morning of July 18, 2012, a bus carrying Israeli tourists who had just arrived at the Burgas airport, was deliberately targeted. Five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver perished, and another 32 people, including an 11-year-old child, were wounded.
"Remembering the Burgas victims on this first anniversary of the bombing is crucial, as the European Union continues to deliberate whether to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "The time for action is now. Further delay would be inexplicable and only embolden Hezbollah, already fundraising and recruiting across Europe."
The five Israelis killed in the bombing were Kochava Shriki, 44 and pregnant, from Rishon Lezion; Itzik Kolangi, 28, and Amir Menashe, 28, from Petah Tikva; and Maor Harush, 25, and Elior Priess, 26, from Akko. The Bulgarian bus driver was Mustafa Kyosov, 36, from Yurukovo.
The Bulgarian government's investigation concluded that Hezbollah was responsible. In March 2013, a Cypriot court convicted a Hezbollah agent, who admitted during the trial about scouting potential Israeli targets on the island nation, eerily similar to what transpired in Bulgaria.
EU foreign ministers are poised to discuss again taking action against Hezbollah when they meet in Brussels on July 22. But any EU policy decisions require unanimity among the 28 member states. Britain has laudably spearheaded the current drive for EU action, which is expected to focus on designating Hezbollah's "military wing," a step London took in 2001.
The only other EU member state to act so far is the Netherlands, which, in 2004, designated Hezbollah in its entirety, as did the United States in 2001 and Canada in 2002.
Since Burgas, AJC has mobilized its global advocacy efforts to urge EU member states to join in recognizing the Hezbollah threat and taking action against the Iranian-sponsored group. AJC has engaged in direct diplomacy with senior officials of each EU member state in their respective capitals, in Brussels and across the U.S.
AJC experts have published op-ed articles on the EU and Hezbollah in the Wall Street Journal, El Pais, and major U.S. media, and also have conveyed the urgency of EU action on Hezbollah in AJC's weekly radio commentaries on the CBS radio network.
An AJC full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal appeared last month urging EU designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
"At long last, we may be on the verge of EU action," said Harris. "Though designating only the so-called 'military wing' would not be ideal, it nonetheless would be an important step in concerted European action against Hezbollah."
Hezbollah's global reach has struck around the world. Indeed, July 18 also marks the anniversary of the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA headquarters in Buenos Aires. The Iran and Hezbollah attack that destroyed the seven-story Jewish community center left 85 dead and 300 wounded. But 19 years later, the quest for justice remains unfulfilled, as no one has been arrested and brought to justice. In 2007, Interpol issued red notices for the apprehension of five Iranian officials, including Iran's current minister of defense, and one Hezbollah operative, but no one has yet been detained.
"Nearly 20 years after Iran and its terrorist allies got away with mass murder in Buenos Aires, resolving the AMIA case remains an urgent task," Dina Siegel Vann, AJC's Director of Latino and Latin American Affairs, wrote in an op-ed in this week's Forward.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee