Tel Aviv (Oct. 21)
The officers and crew of a missile boat that grounded on a coral reef off the Saudi Arabian coast on September 14 have been held partially responsible for the mishap according to the report of a naval commission of inquiry just published here. As a result, the commander of the vessel, its chief engineer and the officer on watch at the time have been relieved of their duties, effective immediately.
The report, and appended comments by former Navy commander Lt. Gen. (ret.) Avraham Botzer, found the basic cause of the grounding was technical failure. But this was abetted by errors of judgement and negligence on the part of officers and crew, the report said. The missile boat was on a routine voyage to Eilat when it suddenly veered off course and raced at 23 knots toward the Saudi coast.
Although the grounding occurred within sight of a Saudi military position, Saudi forces did not intervene. Israel immediately informed the Saudi government, through the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, that the intrusion into Saudi waters was an accident with no hostile intent. The boat was eventually freed by Israeli salvage crews and towed to Eilat.