WASHINGTON (Aug. 28)
Libya provided “direct support in all phases of preparation” for the failed May 30 terrorist raid on Tel Aviv beaches by the Palestine Liberation Front, the State Department has determined.
The finding, contained in a report issued Monday by the department’s Office of Counterterrorism, concurs with claims previously made by Israel about Libya’s role in helping to plan the raid.
The raid was to be conducted by six assault boats carrying PLF personnel to the Tel Aviv shoreline. But Israel intercepted them, killing four would-be terrorists and capturing 12 others. No Israelis were injured.
Libya helped in “planning the attack,” providing “personnel who accompanied the ship from which (the raid) was launched,” said the report, which was entitled, “Libyan Support for Terrorism Threatens the Middle East.”
According to the State Department, PLF members began preparing for a seaborne operation “at least as early as October 1988. From late 1988 until the operation was launched, training and preparations took place in Libya at several locations, including a Libyan naval base,” the report found.
The six assault boats were carried by a larger merchant ship, called “Tiny Star.” After unloading the boats west of Israel, the larger ship “probably traveled west to southwest, to blend in with the hundreds of merchant ships to and from the Suez Canal,” the report found.
The report said that “Tiny Star’s unusual movements in Libyan waters between late April and mid-June coincided with activities of the PLF in preparing for the May 30 attack and in demobilizing after the failed operation.”
COULD HAVE KILLED CIVILIANS
The ship was detected in Tripoli harbor in early May. On May 24, six assault boats were loaded onto Tiny Star at a Libyan naval base. The ship then sailed to the port of Ras el-Hilal, to pick up the PLF members who were to launch the attack, the report said.
After the raid, the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which the PLF is a constituent group, refused to discipline PLF leader Mohammed (Abul) Abbas, as demanded by the United States. It said it could not take such action without the consent of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s so-called parliament in exile, which would not meet again until the fall.
As a result, on June 20, the Bush administration suspended its dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had began 18 months earlier.
“The attack, had it succeeded, would have killed Israeli civilians and other nationalities, perhaps including Americans, on Tel Aviv’s public beaches,” the report concluded.
A fact sheet accompanying the report disputed Abbas’ claim that the attack was aimed at military targets only.
“Anyone familiar with the beach at Tel Aviv where these boats were headed can tell you this claim is false,” the fact sheet said.
“At the time of the attack, the beach was crowded with civilians, Israelis and tourists, enjoying the sun.”