Ferry Seizure Was Defensive Move Against Terrorists, Arens Tells Knesset Panel

Defense Minster Moshe Arens defended the Israel navy’s seizure of a Cypriot car ferry on the high seas and the detention of some of its passengers before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee yesterday.

He said the Panamanian-flag Alisur Blanco, enroute from Larmaca, Cyprus to Beirut was intercepted and escorted to Haifa last Friday on the basis of “intelligence information” in order to prevent terrorist attacks on Israel.

According to Arens, there was a link between that action and Israel’s air and naval bombardment of Anarib island off the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli last week. The Defense Minister briefed the committee on the interrogation of the four ferry passengers still under detention in Israel.

The ferry was allowed to proceed to Beirut late Friday with all but nine of its 63 passengers aboard. Of the nine, five were released yesterday and returned to Beirut by bus under the auspices of the International Red Cross.

Navy commander Zeev Almog said yesterday that terrorists are again preparing seaborne raids on Israel and have more sophisticated equipment at their disposal then in the past. He contended that interception of a vessel on the high seas was allowable under international law on grounds of self-defense. He claimed that Libya and Syria pose the greatest dangers to Israel from the sea because both have sophisticated navies.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials have emphatically denied media reports abroad that one of the detainees off the ferry is the notorious international terrorist known as Carlos, believed to have masterminded the massacre of the Israeli team at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

NEXT STORY