JERUSALEM (Sep. 13)
Palestinian terrorists who took part in the May 30 terrorist attack on Tel Aviv area beaches had the U.S. Embassy as one of their prime targets, according to formal charges brought Thursday in a Lod military court against 11 survivors of the raid.
The court ordered them held in custody for the duration of legal proceedings. A 12th defendant will be arraigned before the tribunal at a later date.
The suspects are alleged members of the Palestine Liberation Front, headed by Mohammed (Abul) Abbas, who masterminded the 1985 hijack of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro.
According to the charges filed, the terrorists were participants in an elaborate scheme to attack the Tel Aviv beaches, crowded on the Shavuot holiday, and cause as much bloodshed as possible among civilians.
The 15-count indictment said they also planned to attack the U.S. Embassy near the beachfront and inflict casualties on U.S. personnel.
The terrorists set out on their mission from Libya, which provided manpower and all other assistance. The terrorists’ “mother ship” launched six speedboats filled with armed men just outside Israeli territorial waters.
Because of mechanical failures and navigation errors, only two of the boats managed to reach shore, one at Ga’ash, north of Tel Aviv, and the other south, at Nitzanim, between Ashkelon and Ashdod, both well away from their original targets.
They were intercepted by Israeli security forces, who killed four and captured 12 before any damage or casualties were inflicted.
The accused, whose ages range from 20 to 30, trained for their mission in Libya. One of them, Mazen Rashid Hijazi, 29, of Jerusalem, taught the others Hebrew.
Hijazi, who served time in Israeli jails for previous terrorist activities, had been freed in a 1985 prisoner exchange.
The captured leader of the assault was identified as 20-year-old Ahmed Khalil al-Wazir, from a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria.
Abul Abbas said he planned the attack to avenge the killing of seven Palestinian day laborers by a former Israeli soldier near Rishon le-Zion on May 20. But a U.S. State Department report has said the PLF began preparing for the attack in October 1988.
President Bush announced June 20 that he was suspending the U.S. dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization because it failed to denounce the attack by the PLF, a constituent organization.