LONDON (Jun. 18)
United States officers aboard the U.S. Navy ship Liberty, which was hit by Israeli firing in the Mediterranean Sea last week, have rejected the notion that the attack was deliberate, according to dispatches received here today from Velletta, Malta, where a Navy inquiry is being held.
One officer was quoted as stating that anyone who held the Israelis attacked the American naval vessel deliberately was "out of his mind." He said that, when the Israeli torpedo boat had realized the ship it had attacked was American, it had flashed this message: "Terrible error; can we help?" An American diplomatic representative at Valletta was quoted as saying: "We thoroughly accepted the Israeli apology, and there is no question that the attack was by mistake."
On the other hand, some senior crew members of the Liberty were reported to have told the Navy Inquiry Board on the ship at Valletta that the Israelis had ample time to identify the Liberty as an American Navy facility. One survivor was quoted as saying: "We were flying the Stars and Stripes and it is absolutely impossible that they should not have known who we were. This was a deliberate and planned attack, and the remarkable thing about it was the accuracy of their fire."