JERUSALEM (Oct. 4)
Details of an elaborate terrorist plot to shell Eilat and ram an explosives-laden vessel on the beach crowded with Rosh Hashanah vacationers were disclosed today by security sources.
The vessel, the 600-ton freighter Agios Demetrios, was sunk by an Israeli naval patrol boat last Saturday afternoon in Sinai coastal waters about 70 miles south of Eilat. The seven terrorists aboard were captured and identified as members of the El Fatah military arm commanded by a terrorist known as Abu Jihad.
According to information elicited by the security sources, the terrorists’ ship arrived at Latakia, Syria early last month from Lebanon and sailed from there under the Cypriot flag. Ship’s documents seized by the navy before the vessel sank indicated that it was bound for a port in Saudi Arabia via the Suez Canal.
But interrogation of the captured terrorists revealed that the documents were false. The terrorists admitted that their destination was Eilat, at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. They planned to shell the city with 42 Katyusha rockets on board, the chief targets being the oil jetty and oil storage tanks. Afterwards the terrorists intended to run the ship aground on the public beach and make their escape in rubber dinghies to neighboring Jordan.
They disclosed that three tons of explosives were crammed into the double bottom linked to a timing device. The blast was calculated to take the highest possible toll of civilian lives.
Carnage was averted when the navy patrol boat spotted the ship far from its goal. After warning shots went unheeded, the patrol boat fired at the ship which began to take water. A naval party boarded and seized weapons and documents before the vessel sank. One terrorist was captured aboard and six others were fished out of the sea, three of them injured.