July 21. 2012

EDITOR: What do they know about the bombing in Bulgaria, really?

Half an hour after the bombing, Netanyahu already knew it was 1. Iran, and 2. Hizbollah who were responsible. They also knew who the bomber was… well, it seems they knew nothing, and jut spoke to make an impression on the easily-impressed. The identity of the bomber which was all buta fact yesterday, is disproved today. Not only that – there seems to be no clear information about the bombing done by Hizbollah either. This is how seriously one should take thewe announcements by Israel. Uzi Arad, a former senior intelligence chief in Israel, has made these points two days ago. First they mark the bull’s eye on the target, then they identify it…

Struggle to identify Bulgaria bus suicide bomber: BBC

Damaged buses at Burgas airportThe attack killed a total of seven people, including the suicide bomber

Officials are still struggling to identify a suicide bomber, 48 hours after he killed five Israelis and a local bus driver in Bulgaria.

CCTV footage released earlier from the attack at Burgas airport had shown a white person with long hair.

But a witness said on Friday the suspect was a dark-skinned man with short brown hair and an Arabic accent, and appeared to be wearing a wig.

Fingerprints and DNA samples from the bomber’s body are being examined.

The FBI and the CIA are working with Bulgarian investigators on the case.

On Friday, the funerals were held in Israel for the five Israelis – four men in their 20s and a pregnant woman – killed in the bombing.

‘Shaven head’

Speaking on Friday, Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said that 3kg (6.6lb) of TNT powder had been used in the attack.

He said the bomber was not thought to be a Bulgarian citizen, and that investigators had ruled out Mehdi Ghezali, a Swedish citizen and former Guantanamo inmate, who was mentioned earlier as a possible suspect.

The suspect tried to hire a car in the days before the bombing, but was turned down because of doubts about his driving licence photo, according to police and the car rental firm.

The attacker had a fake driving licence from the US state of Michigan. According to the AFP news agency, it was registered under the name of Jacque Felipe Martin of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, born in 1987.

Afrodita Petrova, from the car rental company, said: “He had an almost shaven head… His hair was brown.”

The suspect is thought to have been in Bulgaria for up to a week

She said that he was of Arabic appearance, had dark skin and spoke English with an Arabic accent. He also had a lot of money in 500-euro (£390; $610) notes and appeared upset.

Speaking to Bulgarian national TV, she insisted the man was the same person shown in the CCTV footage released by the authorities, and looked like he was wearing a wig.

The footage showed a man going in and out of the terminal, wearing a baseball cap over long blonde hair and carrying a bulky backpack.

Officials believe the backpack carried the bomb which was later placed in the luggage compartment of the tourist bus.

Prosecutors said on Friday that they now believe the man to be short-haired, but that it was unclear whether he was wearing a wig or had a haircut after the footage was taken, AP reported.

Victims buried

On Friday, the funerals were held in Israel for the five Israelis killed.

Family and friends mourn as Kochava Shriki, 44, who was killed in an attack in Bulgaria, is buried at a cemetery in Rishon Lezion, near Tel Aviv July 20, 2012The funeral of Kochava Shriki, who was pregnant with her first child, was held in Rishon Lezion

The victims were childhood friends Yitzik Kolengi, 28, and Amir Menashe, 27; Kochava Shriki, a 42-year-old woman who had recently become pregnant after years of fertility treatments; and friends Maor Harush, 26, and Elior Price, 24.

In a phone call to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, US President Barack Obama called the attack “barbaric” and offered support for the Bulgarian investigation.

Israel blames Iran and the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah for the blast, in which another 30 people were injured.

Iran responded on Thursday by saying it strongly condemned “all terrorist acts”. Hezbollah has not publicly commented on the issue.

US Department of Defence spokesman George Little said on Friday that the attack bore “some of the hallmarks of Hezbollah” but that the Pentagon was “not in a position to make any final determination”.

However, a US intelligence source quoted by AP said there was “a high degree of confidence” that the group carried out the attack.

The BBC’s Jon Donnison, in Jerusalem, says the attack could be part of a covert but violent war between Israel and Iran. There is a view among some analysts that it could be a response to a series of recent attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists.

Israeli officials have stressed that the bombing resembled several recent attempted attacks on Israeli targets in India, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Kenya and Cyprus.

Bulgaria is a popular tourist destination for Israelis.

Bulgaria interior minister: No proof yet terrorist sent by Hezbollah: Haaretz

Denies media reports of terrorist’s identity, says DNA samples yet to reveal truth; Bulgarian police ups security.

By Yaniv Kubovich Jul.21, 2012

The damaged bus following the suicide attack on Israeli tourists at Burgas airport, Bulgaria.

The damaged bus following the suicide attack on Israeli tourists at Burgas airport, Bulgaria, July 19, 2012.Photo by AP

Three days following the Burgas attack, and it seems that at the local airport things are back to normal. As a result of the bombing Wednesday, Bulgarian police increased its presence, checking every vehicle entering the airport and limiting access to certain parts of the terminal.

The numerous Israelis in Burgas, mostly youths on holiday ahead of their army draft, seem to have returned to routine. If at first they were dealing with the implications of the suicide bombing, today Israeli tourists were preoccupied by the broken promises given to them by their travel agents.

Bulgarian authorities are focusing now on investigating the bombing and assisting international investigators who are probing the incident. Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who is in charge of the investigation, spends his time denying rumors spreading in the international media.

“In the last 48 hours we have gathered a lot of information that could bring progress to the investigation,” Tsvetanov told reporters on Friday. “Experts are gathering the information and we are sharing it with all relevent parties,” noting also the strong cooperation between Bulgaria and Israel.

Tsvetanov said the identity of the terrorist is still unclear, despite media reports that have made claims regarding the suicide bomber’s name. “[The terrorist] was not in Guantanamo and there is no proof that he was sent by Hezbollah,” Tsvetanov said, adding that caution should be taken when dealing with any information not approved by Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry.

“It is important for us to understand from whence he entered Bulgaria and for how long he was in the state prior to the attack. We know he was in Bulgaria for at least four days. We also don’t know as yet whether he had accomplices or whether he acted alone.”

DNA samples taken from the terrorist’s body were sent to U.S. intelligence agencies, but, as yet, no match has been found with any former Guantanamo detainees. Information was also sent to Interpol and was distributed to police forces around the world. Until now, no states have been able to identify the terrorist.

In addition to DNA samples of the terrorist, samples of the explosives used in the attack were taken in an attempt to link it with previous attacks. Finding a match may point to the people responsible for the attack. The terrorist was carrying about 3 kilograms of explosives.

On Friday, Bulgarian television reported that a man aiding the terrorist might still be in Burgas, while also presenting a facial composite of the suspect. However, there was no trace of the report in the morning newspapers.

“We have received no information regarding this matter. If there really is a terrorist wandering around here we must know,” Rabbi Haim Tavardovitch of the local Beit Chabad said. Some 200 Israelis arrived at the house, where Shabbat dinner is offered at no charge. The place was guarded by a few local policemen.

Moshe Silman dies after self-immolation at Israeli protest: Haaretz

The Israeli social protester was suffering from second and third-degree burns on 94 percent of his body after he set himself on fire at a protest in Tel Aviv last week.

By Revital Hovel and Dan Even  Jul.20, 2012

Moshe Silman at a social protest in Haifa. Photo by Hagai Frid

Moshe Silman, the Israeli activist who set himself on fire during a social justice protest in Tel Aviv one week ago, succumbed to his wounds on Friday at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.

SIlman was suffering from second and third-degree burns on 94 percent of his body.

From Friday morning, activists and close friends of Silman were informed by his family that he was in his last hours. His family wanted to be surrounded by close friends, and announced that they would sit Shiva, the seven-day mourning period of an immediate family member required by Judaism, in the house of his sister in Rishon Letzion, where a mourner’s tent would be set up.

The  57-year-old son of Holocaust survivors, did not have an easy start. He lived alone, and according to friends, tried to get ahead in life and live in dignity. But a small debt to the National Insurance Institute grew and sent him into an economic and bureaucratic tailspin that ended in self-immolation Saturday night on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street in front of the cameras.

“Moshe was simply not willing for the State of Israel to run him over anymore,” a friend said.

Silman’s friends were not surprised to hear what he did. The decision to set himself on fire because the state would not help him overcome his economic difficulties was in character for him, they said, especially considering his despair. “There was protest in his soul,” said a friend who went to rallies with Silman in Haifa. “He waited for it to break out and was glad when it did,” the friend added.

Two years ago Silman moved from Bat Yam to Haifa. As his economic situation deteriorated he became more and more involved in the protests in Haifa. The activists he met at the protest tent on the Carmel last summer became his best friends. “He was a man of action. He said you have to be political and get elected anywhere possible,” said Yossi Baruch, a Haifa activist.

According to friends, Silman lives in a neglected two-room apartment on the edge of the poor Wadi Salib area of the city. The refrigerator is empty. The neighbors do not know him at all.

Friends say he believes in action and took his belief to the extreme. He was born in Israel, and has two sisters, Bat Zion Elul from Rishon Letzion and Naomi Angel, a member of Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael. Angel would visit him in Haifa from time to time, always bringing food. Elul said yesterday of her brother: “He was in despair. He was mired in debt. Until the last moment we helped him. But he didn’t want it. Since the day he lost everything, the day they took everything, the house, his trucks, the money, my parents’ house, he has been going downhill.”

Silman never married and had no children and so his request for public housing was repeatedly denied. He worked at odd jobs and spent a few years in the United States. On his return, he established a messenger service and things finally began to look up. But then, toward the end of 2000, his business was hurt by the outbreak of the second intifada. He moved the business to a smaller warehouse and his office to his home in Jaffa. It later turned out that the National Insurance Institute’s debt notices never reached him, because they were sent to his former address. In 2002, the institute seized one of the four trucks he used for his company. The reason: a debt of NIS 15,000. Silman paid a third of the debt to reclaim his truck, but then he was asked to pay a further NIS 1,200 to cover towing expenses. Silman could not reclaim the truck due to a strike at the institute, and says that it led to the business’ collapse. Later, in 2005, he was forced to evacuate his apartment.

A history of court battles

Together with his mother, Sarah, Silman decided in 2008 to sue the National Insurance Institute. He and his mother claimed damages of NIS 8 million because of the seizure of his trucks that he said led to the loss of his business. But to file the suit he needed to pay a court fee, which he said he could not afford.

The court turned down his request to waive the fee and the case was never heard. The court registrar called Silman’s claim “baseless.” Silman appealed the decision to the Tel Aviv District Court, but it was turned down in 2010.

In a Facebook post last March, Silman urged his friends to organize protests against the institute: “I think that considering the upcoming appointment of a new director general of the NII, which is actually the Anti-Social National Insurance Institute, which has throughout the years caused the most cases of injustice by any governmental service to the weakest segments of society − and continues to do so daily − we should organize protests in front of NII offices,” he wrote.

Silman began working as a taxi driver, but made very little money, according to an affidavit and documents, submitted with his damages claim against the institute. Meanwhile, as his financial situation worsened, his bank account was seized, and all his savings and insurance benefits were either seized or used to pay his debts, estimated at hundreds of thousands of shekels. Silman’s mother, a guarantor of his debts, was also left without savings. In order to save her apartment, she legally transferred it to her daughters, free of charge. The court registrar who rejected Silman’s plea to be exempt from the court fee to file his damages suite wrote: “Someone who used this route of property smuggling cannot be heard afterward saying that he cannot pay the court fee.”

After losing his driver’s license because of his debts, his health began to deteriorate. The NII assessed his loss of ability to work at 50 percent and gave him only a limited allowance. Avri Raviv, who went with Silman several times to the institute said: “Like the cliche says, the handwriting was on the wall. Silman threatened suicide more than once to them. The representative of the psychiatric committee told me that people who threaten, don’t do it.”

But then, last summer’s social protest put wind in Silman’s sails. He began to participate regularly in rallies and became well known in Haifa’s small activist community. Idit Lev, who was one of the people closest to him, said: “He was always trying to turn over one stone and then another, to see if he could move ahead somehow.”

He spent his days looking for work, in endless lines at the health maintenance organization and in attempts to fight the Housing Ministry for help with rent. He filed four such applications with attorney Becky Cohen-Keshet, all of which were rejected on the grounds that he once owned an apartment and had no children. A fellow activist said after Silman set fire to himself Saturday night: “Moshe chose to harm himself in protest. It’s terrible when a person has to commit an act like that to explain their situation to people.”

 

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