JERUSALEM (Jul. 8)
Testimony by Chief of Staff Gen. Mordecai Gur and former Defense Minister Moshe Dayan may help clear up what the committee investigating the Maalot tragedy has described in its report as a lack of communications between military authorities at the scene of the Maalot massacre and the Cabinet room in Jerusalem during the fateful hours of last May 15. Three Arab terrorists murdered 25 Israeli high school students late that afternoon as Israeli troops stormed the Maalot schoolhouse where the youngsters had been taken hostage some 12 hours earlier.
The orders to storm the building were sharply criticized in some quarters because the Cabinet had reportedly agreed to the terrorists’ conditions in order to save the lives of the hostages. But Dayan and Gur told Premier Yitzhak Rabin over the weekend that neither of them had ever seen a letter from the terrorists spelling out their demands.
The Maalot inquiry committee, headed by Gen. (Ret.) Amos Horev, president of the Haifa Technion, reportedly accused Dayan of supplying incorrect information to the Cabinet during the ordeal. Parts of the committee’s report will be debated in the Knesset Wednesday. Gur reportedly told Rabin that the terrorists’ letter was dealt with by senior officers on the spot but was not considered urgent enough to be given to Dayan. The letter was believed to have been prepared by the terrorists before they infiltrated across the Israeli border and therefore was not considered relevant to the situation at Maalot.
Another reason the letter was not shown to Dayan was apparently the Defense Minister’s determination not to negotiate a deal with the terrorists but to try to kill them without delay. Dayan reportedly wanted to have the terrorists shot by snipers through the schoolhouse windows early in the day and felt that the longer such action was delayed the more difficult it would be. Gur reportedly opposed the idea for fear that the hostages might be hit. Dayan is expected to attend Wednesday’s Knesset session. He did not say whether he would participate in the discussion of the Maalot committee’s report.