TEL AVIV (Feb. 16)
A grenade and a home-made bomb exploded Tuesday outside the Israel Embassy in Manila, causing no casualties and only slight damage, according to reports from the Philippine capital.
No group or individual claimed responsibility. Sources in Manila said the bombing was probably the work of the outlawed Communist Party.
The incident occurred as Israel began beefing up security at its installations abroad in anticipation of terrorist reprisal attacks for the sabotage of a Cypriot car ferry that was to have carried several hundred Palestinian deportees and their sympathizers on a demonstrative propaganda voyage to Israel.
The Palestine Liberation Organization warned Tuesday that it would resume attacking Israeli installations overseas in retaliation for the attack on the ship.
The 6,000-ton Sol Phryne was damaged by an underwater explosion in Limassol harbor Monday. The PLO, which was sponsoring the voyage, immediately blamed Israeli agents and announced that it and other terrorist groups would no longer be bound by the “Cairo Declaration” not to attack Israeli installations overseas.
The “Cairo Declaration” came about after Palestinian terrorists hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in Egyptian waters in October 1986 and murdered one of its passengers, a wheel-chair-bound American named Leon Klinghoffer.
The international outcry embarrassed the Egyptian government. President Hosni Mubarak complained directly to PLO chief Yasir Arafat, though the Achille Lauro affair was attributed to a non-PLO terrorist organization, the Palestine Liberation Front headed by Mohammed (Abul) Abbas.
NO COMMENT FROM ISRAEL
Israel has not officially commented on the Sol Phryne incident, but Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Monday, before news of the sabotage reached here, that Israel would block the voyage “in whatever ways we find.”
Israel announced last week that it would exercise its rights under international law to bar a ship carrying Palestinain deportees from its territorial waters. But observers noted that any confrontation at sea would be a propaganda victory for the PLO.
The PLO maintained that only Israel had an interest in stopping the voyage before it started. It attributed the explosion, which ripped through the fuel tank of the car ferry, to agents of Mossad, Israel’s secret service.
It also blamed Israeli agents for a car bombing Sunday in Limassol that killed three PLO representatives who had purchased the Sol Phryne at auction the day before, for a reported sum of $600,000.
The PLO set up press headquarters at the Intercontinental Hotel in Athens shortly after announcing the “voyage of return” on Jan. 29. At that time, it said a ship, not identified by name or nationality, would sail from Piraeus, the port of Athens, for Haifa with a stopover at Larnaca, Cyprus.
PLO SURPRISED BY ATTACK
In Athens, PLO personnel seemed genuinely surprised Monday by the sabotage, but also exuded pride that their widely publicized project may have pressured Israel into taking drastic action.
According to PLO representatives, the sabotage confirmed the excuse they were giving the press last week for refusing to divulge the name of the ship. They claimed they had to remain silent, because Israel was threatening the master and crew of any vessel that would undertake the voyage.
It was only on Monday that the PLO identified the ship as the Sol Phryne and said it would sail from Larnaca, not Piraeus. Journalists who were to make the trip were boarding buses for Athens airport to catch a commercial flight to Cyprus when news of the sabotage was announced.
Most of the press corps has now dispersed.
While Israel was ordering tightened security measures at its diplomatic missions, airline offices and shipping firms abroad, Arab affairs experts in Israel predicted there would be no serious terrorist reprisals, because the PLO would lose much of the public and diplomatic support it gained in recent months for its policy of “restraint.”
(Athens correspondent Jean Cohen contributed to this report.)