TEL AVIV (Nov. 17)
The attack by frogmen which damaged two Israeli ships in the port of Eilat early yesterday morning was discussed at today’s special Cabinet session devoted to security matters and foreign policy. Apparently the Cabinet is considering what counter-measures, if any, to take, though it is yet to be determined just how and by whom the attack was carried out.
The damaged vessels are the 14,000 deadweight ton Zim Lines freighter Dahlia and the 1,000 ton former Clyde River excursion boat Hey Daroma which has been used to carry tourists from Eilat to Sharm el-Sheikh at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Both vessels were holed in several places by underwater explosives fixed to their hulls by frogmen. But the damage was relatively slight. The Dahlia is expected to sail shortly for the Far East and will probably dry dock at Singapore for permanent repairs. The Hey Daroma was beached in shallow water after developing a list and repairs to her may take a week.
Israeli circles noted conflicting announcements by an Egyptian military spokesman in Cairo and El Fatah spokesmen in Amman, each claiming that its forces carried out the attack. Israelis believe the claims were prompted partly to take the heat off Jordan whose only seaport, Aqaba, lies a few miles east of Eilat. Israel and Jordan, by tacit agreement, have refrained from attacking each other’s towns. But initial investigations by Israeli security officials indicate that the frogmen probably came from Aqaba or nearby.
They ridiculed Cairo’s claim that they were brought to Eilat by helicopter. The Israelis say the Egyptians have no helicopters capable of reaching Eilat. But it was generally acknowledged that the frogmen may have been Egyptians and that they were probably guided to Eilat by El Fatah commandos.
According to Cairo radio, frogmen “sank” three Israeli ships. The Egyptians said the ships were equipped for military landing operations and that in the case of the Hey Daroma her role as a tourist ferry camouflaged her “real purpose.” The El Fatah announcement credited what it called El Fatah’s newly formed “frogmen” units and warned that other Israeli ships would be targets in the future.