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Bulgaria links Lebanese to bombing, printer and telecom evidence
As Bulgaria claims to have found new evidence linking Hezbollah to the deadly attack on Israeli tourists last July, Israel, the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands have continued to pressure the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization and impose sanctions on the resistance group.
Placing Hezbollah on the terror list requires unanimity among the EU’s 27 member states.
France and Italy have so far opposed sanctions, but Israel says they may be convinced to put some senior Hezbollah officials on the terror list.
“If we get that we’ll consider it an achievement,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official, cited in Haaretz Monday.
Lebanese Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel said Monday that the accusation by the Bulgarian government was evidence that Hezbollah could not be seen as “neutral.”
The Bulgarian opposition accused the government in early February of prematurely accusing Hezbollah before the investigation had been concluded.
Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader Sergei Stanishev had said that Bulgaria was acting under US and Israeli pressure and had entered “into a political game in an irresponsible manner, without calculating the consequences.”
Hezbollah’s Naim Kassem, the group’s number two, slammed the "international campaign of intimidation waged by Israel against Hezbollah" three weeks ago, saying it is "ever improving its equipment and training" and that "these charges will change nothing."
The Bulgarian government had released a report concluding that three Hezbollah members were behind the July attack that killed five Israeli tourists, based on evidence including a computer printer in Beirut, DNA traces on a SIM card and telephone calls from the bombers to Hezbollah officials.
The Bulgarian government said they had well-grounded reasons to suspect that the three attackers were Lebanese with foreign passports and forged drivers licenses from Canada and Australia.
With the help of foreign intelligence agents, drivers licenses were shown to have been printed on a printer in Lebanon, according to the Bulgarian report.
The US government have in the past convinced some color laser printer manufacturers to encode every page printed with identifying information, but not all printers do so.
Two of the attackers were said to have returned to Lebanon after the attack, while one of attackers died unintentionally during the bombing.
Two Israelis had allegedly confronted the unintentional suicide bomber while he was trying to put his booby-trapped backpack into the bus’ cargo hold. The bomb was said to have exploded prematurely because of the “shaking.”
The investigation’s allegations regarding the role of Lebanon and Hezbollah in the bombing remain unclear and disputed.
Aware of the traceability of mobile phones and internet communications, Hezbollah currently operates within a highly secure landline network to avoid tracking.
The debate on the usefulness and reliability of telephone calls or found SIM cards as evidence in criminal investigations has been ongoing in Lebanon, particularly since evidence of telephone calls linking certain individuals to the Hariri assassination in 2005 was leaked as part of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
The evidence is considered especially unreliable in Lebanon, given Israel’s known tampering in telephone networks in Lebanon, with the capability of forging SIM cards and tampering with collected data on the networks.
The International Telecommunications Union in 2010 passed three resolutions against Israel for “piracy and attacks against fixed and cellular telephone networks in Lebanon.”
The resolutions determined that “Lebanon's telecommunication facilities have been and are still being subjected to piracy, interference and interruption, and sedition by Israel against Lebanon's fixed and cellular telephone networks.”
Israel has not yet halted their activities or provided Lebanon with reparations for the damages incurred so far.
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