Netanyahu blames Iran for attacks on diplomats in India, Georgia

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for a terrorist attack and an attempted attack on Israeli Embassy employees in India and Georgia.

An Israeli diplomat’s wife in New Delhi was injured by a car bomb, and a second bomb was disabled in a staff member’s car at the Israeli embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Monday in what appeared to be related incidents.

"Iran is behind these attacks; it is the largest exporter of terrorism in the world," Netanyahu said in a statement issued following reports of the attacks. "The Government of Israel and the security services will continue to act together with local security forces against such acts of terrorism. We will continue to take strong and systematic, yet patient, action against the international terrorism that originates in Iran."

Monday’s attacks came the day after the Feb. 12th anniversary of the assassination of the operational chief of Hezbollah, Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh was killed four years ago in Damascus by a car bomb; Hezbollah blames his killing on Israel. Israeli embassies and other missions had been on high alert in advance of the anniversary.

"In recent months we have witnessed several attempts to attack Israeli citizens and Jews in several countries, including Azerbaijan, Thailand and others," Netanyahu said. "In each instance we succeeded in foiling the attacks in cooperation with local authorities. Iran and its proxy Hezbollah were behind all of these attempted attacks."

Iran’s ambassador to New Delhi, Mehdi Nabizadeh, rejected Netanyahu’s accusations, calling them "untrue and sheer lies, like previous times," Reuters reported. Nabizadeh also condemned the attack.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry later charged that Israel and its allies were behind the attacks, part of Israel’s psychological war against Iran and a way to undermine the relationships between the Islamic Republic and both India and Georgia.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz called a meeting in the hours after the attack to assess the situation of Israel’s foreign missions.

India’s foreign minister reportedly called his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, and said his country would work to capture the attackers. He also said his country will provide additional security for the embassy. 

In the New Delhi attack, Tal Yehoshua Koren, the wife of a diplomat stationed with the Israeli Defense Ministry mission in India, was the injured woman, Ynet reported. Koren was said to be in moderate condition with shrapnel wounds.

President Shimon Peres condemned the attacks, saying "We will continue to defend and protect our citizens anywhere in the world.  These acts of terrorism will not deter us."

Peres, who spoke with Israeli Ambassador to India Alon Ushpiz and Israeli Ambassador to Georgia Itzhak Gerberg to offer encouragement, thanked the security forces in both countries for their supoprt.

He also condemned Iran, saying:"Iran is not only building a bomb and threatening to destroy our people, the government of Iran today is the headquarters of terrorism, of hatred and of war, and will not spare any effort to attempt to kill and to destroy." 

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