Danish Sea Captain Gives Details of ‘escape’ of Israeli Gunboats from Cherbourg

Details of the famous “escape” of five embargoed Israeli gunboats from Cherbourg, France on Christmas Eve. 1969, were related in an interview with a Danish sea captain published today in the daily Politiken. Capt, Knud Lindholm Petersen said he played a part in the incident which aroused world-wide excitement and the ire of the French government, The unarmed gunboats, built in France for Israel, were placed under embargo following the Six-Day war although they were fully paid for. They were kept under heavy guard at Cherbourg but Israeli crews were permitted to live aboard for maintenance purposes. Capt. Petersen said they were allowed only enough fuel for heating and light but the Israelis secretly hoarded the fuel ration for months. The escape was planned for Christmas Eve because the strength of the guard would be reduced at that time. Petersen said only two guards were posted and they were gotten drunk by the Israelis before departure time. The small craft cast off in the evening and left Cherbourg harbor without lights. They had sufficient fuel for only a few hours. Capt. Petersen said they were refueled from tankers chartered by Israel which met them outside French territorial waters. The boats tied up at Haifa 17 days after leaving Cherbourg. Capt. Petersen said the voyage was “uneventful.”

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