image Photo: Reuters

Blast near Israeli embassy in India

Israel’s Ambassador to India Ron Malka said an explosion in New Delhi on Friday is being investigated as a “terror incident.”

On his official Twitter page, Dr. Malka confirmed the safety of all embassy personnel and said “We are working with Indian authorities to find the perpetrators and the motive behind this attack.”

Delhi police described the bomb as a “very low intensity improvised device” that detonated near the Israeli embassy just after 5 PM local time (1130 GMT) with an impact felt within a 20-25 meter radius. The Indian news website NDTV cited police sources disclosing that the bomb had been “wrapped up in plastic bag and left on the pavement.” The blast caused no deaths or injuries, and damaged only the windows of three cars in the vicinity.

The India Today news website reported that one-and-a-half-page-long letter found at the site of the Delhi bombing mentioned both Fakhrizadeh and Soleimani as “martyrs,” while vowing the Friday incident was “just the preview” of what is yet to come.

According to Indian media, the Jaish-ul-Hind terror group believed to be affiliated with Iran claimed responsibility and expressed pride for the attack on the Telegram messenger app.

Initial impressions suggest a mischievous attempt to create a sensation,” said the police statement. The area was cordoned off, and alerts were issued at all airports, government agencies and other important sites where security services were bolstered.

“We are always aware that we are targets for terror organizations…this is not new, although in recent times there has been increase in the level of vigilance,” said Amb. Malka, noting that the bombing occurred on the 29th anniversary since the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and India on 29 January 1992.

Israel had raised the level of alert at its embassies around the world following threats by Iran to avenge the 27 November 2020 killing of its top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, for which Tehran holds Jerusalem accountable. There has also been concern the Islamic Republic would lash out at the Jewish State and its interests on the first anniversary of the 3 January 2020 death of Quds Forces Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in an airstrike by the United States in Iraq.

India’s Bureau of Immigration is now reviewing data on all Iranian citizens who recently entered the country, and several Iranians suspected of involvement have already undergone interrogation by security forces according to the India Today TV network.

“The terrorist attack was meant for us, there’s no question about it,” an unnamed Israeli intelligence official told Israeli Channel 12, adding, that there is a strong link connecting Iran to the attack in revenge for the deaths of its perceived “martyrs.”

Israel’s National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat updated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the situation after a telephone conversations with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.

Netanyahu conveyed “full confidence that the Indian authorities will carry out a thorough investigation of the incident, and ensure the safety of the Israelis and Jews who are there” to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had been participating in a military ceremony with President Ram Nath Kovind just a kilometer away at the time of the bombing.

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi issued a message on Twitter, reading: “The Indian FM [Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar] assured me that the Indian authorities are committed to the security of all Israeli diplomatic staff and will continue to act resolutely to locate all those involved in the explosion. I thanked him and promised full cooperation and any help required from Israel.”

India’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that, “The incident is under investigation by the authorities in India, who are in contact with the relevant Israeli authorities.”

Following an outpouring of messages, the @IsraelinIndia Twitter page carried the message: “We at the Embassy are overwhelmed by messages of solidarity and concern from our friends in #India, following Friday’s terror attack outside our Embassy in New Delhi. We express our sincerest gratitude to everyone.”

This was not the first attack on Israeli officials in the Indian capital.

On 13 February 2012, the wife of an Israeli diplomat was seriously wounded when the diplomatic vehicle she was in was bombed. The attack also injured her driver and two others.

A short time later the same day, Israeli embassy personnel in Tbilisi were targeted, but the explosive device was safely neutralized by Georgian forces after being alerted by an Israeli official.

Both incidents came just one day after the 4th anniversary of the death of Hezbollah Deputy leader Imad Mughniyah in an assassination the Iranian-proxy group also attributed to Israel.