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Israel blames Iran and Hezbollah for attacks on diplomats

By Josef Federman

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 06:58 a.m. HST, Feb 13, 2012


JERUSALEM >>  Assailants targeted Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia in near-simultaneous strikes on Monday, wounding two people in a car bombing in New Delhi, officials said. Israel said an attempted car bombing in Georgia was thwarted.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swiftly accused archenemy Iran, and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.

"Today we witnessed two attempts of terrorism against innocent civilians," Prime Minister told a gathering of lawmakers from his Likud Party. "Iran is behind these attacks and it is the largest terror exporter in the world." he said.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attacks. But Netanyahu also said Israel had thwarted similar attacks in recent months in Azerbaijan and Thailand.

"In all those cases, the elements behind these attacks were Iran and its protege Hezbollah," he said, vowing to "act with a strong hand against international terror."

Both Hezbollah and Iran have deep grievances against the Jewish state.

Hezbollah battled Israel in a monthlong war in the summer of 2006, and on Sunday, it the Lebanese guerrilla group marked the anniversary of the 2008 assassination of one of its commanders, Imad Mughniyeh, in a bombing widely believed to have been carried out by Israel. Iran suspects Israeli involvement in a series of killings of officials and scientists involved in its controversial nuclear program.

Israel routinely advises its citizens to use caution when traveling abroad. It has had a standing alert for tourists visiting India since a 2008 attack on a Jewish center in Mumbai.

The explosion in India tore through a diplomat's car, Israeli officials said. Indian officials said the driver and a diplomat's wife were injured.

The explosion took place in the late afternoon close to the embassy, said embassy spokesman David Goldfarb. Television footage showed a charred minivan with blue diplomatic plates, its rear door apparently blown out.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor would not discuss who was injured nor the extent of the injuries because it was a security matter. "We are looking into the incident and cooperation with local security forces is excellent," Palmor said from Israel.

Authorities in the former Soviet republic of Georgia said an explosive device was planted on the car of a driver for the Israeli Embassy.

Shota Utiashvili, spokesman for the Georgian Interior Ministry, said the driver noticed a package attached to his car's undercarriage on Monday and called police.

Police found a grenade in the package and it was defused, Utiashvili said. He did not specify where the car was parked or say when the device was discovered.

There was no immediate comment from Iran or Hezbollah. But speculation will undoubtedly be raised over the possibility of Iranian-linked payback for assassinations on nuclear scientists and other covert plots that Tehran has blamed on Israel's spy agency Mossad and Western allies.

"There have been all kinds of mysterious things happening in Iran, and it could be an Iranian counterattack," said Mike Herzog, a retired Israeli general and former top aide to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. "It's no secret that Iran uses Hezbollah globally, and Hezbollah has the capacity to carry out attacks around the globe."

Hezbollah dominates the government of Lebanon, which borders Israel to the north.

Israel, like the West, accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons, and has urged the international community to consider all means, including military action, to stop Tehran. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Last month, a director of Iran's main uranium enrichment site was killed in a blast from a magnetic bomb placed on his car. The official, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was at least the fifth member of Iran's scientific community killed in apparent targeted attacks in the past two years.

Iran accused Israel of being behind the attacks. Later, Iran's official news agency IRNA said it had "evidence" of alleged U.S. and British involvement in the Roshan killing.

In a signal that Iran could strike back for Roshan's killing, Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, the spokesman for Iran's Joint Armed Forces Staff, was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency last month as saying that Tehran was "reviewing the punishment" of "behind-the-scene elements" involved in the assassination.

"Iran's response will be a tormenting one for supporters of state terrorism," he said, without elaborating. "The enemies of the Iranian nation, especially the United States, Britain and the Zionist regime, or Israel, have to be held responsible for their activities."

Iran also has blamed the U.S. and allies for a sophisticated computer virus, known as Stuxnet, that was programmed to disrupt the centrifuges used in uranium enrichment. Iran said the virus was detected in its systems, but claimed no serious setbacks occurred.

Israeli diplomats have been frequent targets of attackers around the world.

In January, a foreign suspect with alleged links to Hezbollah militants led Thai police to a warehouse filled with materials commonly used to make bombs. Police seized more than 8,800 pounds (4,000 kilograms) of urea fertilizer and several gallons of liquid ammonium nitrate at the warehouse in Samut Sakhon, on the western outskirts of Bangkok.

The U.S. and Israel warned their citizens of a possible terror threat

In January 2010, assailants detonated a roadside bomb near a convoy of cars carrying Israeli diplomats in Jordan. No one was hurt, and there was no claim of responsibility.

In 1992, a bombing attack at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires killed 29 people. Two years later, a bombing at a Jewish community center in that city killed 85 people.

Argentines have long suspected high-level Iranian diplomats were involved in the 1994 bombing.

The Jewish group Chabad was one of the targets in a 2008 rampage by Islamic militants in the Indian city of Chabad. The attacks killed more than 160 people. Among them were six people at the Chabad house, including the rabbi who ran the site.






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