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Hezbollah blamed for Bulgaria bomb

Israel has welcomed a Bulgarian report implicating Hezbollah in the deaths of five Israelis in a bus bombing last summer, signalling that it will use the findings to focus on a diplomatic battle rather than military retaliation against the Lebanese militant group.

Israel has long blamed Hezbollah for the attack, which targeted a bus carrying Israeli tourists in the Black Sea resort town of Burgas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the report "further corroboration of what we have already known, that Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons are orchestrating a worldwide campaign of terror that is spanning countries and continents".

The bomb exploded as the Israeli tourists boarded a bus from the airport to their hotel. The blast also killed the Bulgarian driver and the bomber.

Instead of hinting at retaliation, Mr Netanyahu signalled he would step up his efforts to press the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist group. "We hope the Europeans learn the proper conclusions from this about the true character of Hezbollah," he said.

Analysts said they did not expect Israel to retaliate now that Bulgaria has named Hezbollah.

"When Israel acts, it is in order to prevent a security threat, to prevent a concrete attack. It is not in order to punish," said Israeli counter-terrorism expert Boaz Ganor.

Last week, US and regional officials said Israel struck a military research centre and a convoy carrying sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles from Syria to Hezbollah. Israel has not officially confirmed it carried out the air strike, though its defence minister this week strongly hinted at Israeli involvement.

Israel and Hezbollah have a violent history. The two fought an inconclusive month-long war in 2006, when Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets at Israel. Israel's heavy aerial bombardments caused much damage to civilian infrastructure but ultimately were unable to stop Hezbollah from continuing to amass a large stockpile of rockets just beyond Israel's northern border.

Hezbollah accuses Israel of assassinating a top commander, Imad Mughniyeh, in 2008, when a bomb tore through his car in Damascus, Syria.

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