TEL AVIV (Apr. 22)
An unidentified vessel preparing to put terrorists ashore in Israel was sunk by a Navy patrol boat Saturday night, it was reported today. Of the 28 men aboard the vessel, 19 are presumed to have drowned, eight were pulled alive from the sea and one body was retrieved.
The survivors reportedly told interrogators they were members of El Fatah, the terrorist arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and had been personally instructed on their mission by PLO chief Yasir Arafat’s deputy, Abu Jihad, head of El Fatah’s operations division. Their mission, according to Israeli sources, was to create carnage in Israel on the eve of its Independence Day.
Rear Adm. Avraham Ben-Shushan, commander of the Israel Navy, told military correspondents here today that the patrol boat intercepted a 1,000 ton ship, flying no flag, about 200 kilometers off Tel Aviv Saturday night. The boat was on what was described as a “deep water patrol.”
According to Ben-Shushan, the unidentified ship failed to respond to signal rockets or radio transmissions ordering it to stop. Instead, it opened fire on the Navy patrol boat with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades and attempted evasive action. The patrol boat returned the fire, sinking the hostile vessel.
TERRORISTS PLANNED ATTACKS IN MAJOR CITIES
Premier Shimon Peres told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee today that the terrorists had planned three large-scale attacks in major cities, taking hostages and killing as many Israelis as possible.
A military spokesman said earlier that the surviving terrorists disclosed under interrogation that their “mother ship” carried three rubber dinghies and a fibreglass boat. The terrorists planned to land in Israel in three units of six or seven men each to carry out acts of violence and sabotage.
According to the military spokesman, they called themselves the “Ein Hilwe Martyrs” in honor of the terrorists of the Ein Hilwe refugee camp in Lebanon.
Israel Navy sources said 15 attempted landings by terrorists from the sea have been foiled in recent years. The last successful landing occurred six years ago when terrorists went ashore on the beach near Ma’agan Michael, south of Haifa, hijacked a bus on the coastal highway and held its passengers hostage. The terrorists and several hostages were killed in a shoot-out with Israeli forces.