TEL AVIV (Jun. 9)
Although the Palestine Liberation Organization says it has abandoned terrorism, its mainstream Al Fatah branch was responsible for the attempted terrorist attack near Eilat last month, according to Israel’s military intelligence chief.
The attack would have caused a bloodbath among civilians had it succeeded, Maj. Gen. Uri Saguy said Monday, on the occasion of Israel Defense Force Intelligence Day.
Saguy said the attackers were members of Yasir Arafat’s Fatah organization and had been trained in Libya.
Saguy, speaking to military correspondents, also said that Atef Bseisu, the PLO security official murdered in Paris early Monday, was a well-known terrorist with a thick dossier.
However, Saguy flatly denied any Israeli connection with Bseisu’s murder.
In his wide-ranging address, Saguy also warned that Iran will acquire nuclear capability by the end of the decade, posing a potentially grave danger to Israel.
Regarding the aborted attack near Eilat, Saguy absolved Jordan of responsibility for the terrorist infiltration, in which a night watchman was killed May 30 by heavily armed terrorist frogmen.
Saguy disclosed details of the interrogation of the sole survivor of the four intruders who had planned to kill beachgoers. The man was also interviewed by Israel Television from his hospital bed.
VISITED BY FATAH LEADERS
The captured terrorist, initially identified as Mutazam Bin Mohamed al-Nabeh, was subsequently identified as Muayyad Nasser, a Palestinian born in the West Bank town of Hebron.
He said that he and his three companions trained in Libya and were affiliated with Fatah’s “Western front.” But they were instructed to identify themselves, if captured, as members of the Islamic Jihad or a similar fundamentalist organization to divert attention from Arafat’s mainstream group.
During his training, he was visited by senior Fatah leaders, including the Fatah envoys to Libya and Kuwait, Nasser said.
He said the gang crossed the Red Sea by ferry from Nueiba in Sinai to Aqaba, Jordan’s port adjacent to Eilat. He said they remained in Aqaba 36 hours before donning scuba gear and swimming across the gulf, pushing supposedly watertight canisters containing weapons, ammunition and other items.
Two members of the expedition, including its leader, drowned en route after their canisters developed leaks.
Nasser and his companion gained shore, where they shot to death the Israeli night watch-man who was making his rounds at a marine biology research unit. The shot attracted police and soldiers, who engaged the terrorists, killing one and wounding Nasser.
Nasser said the Jordanian authorities were unaware of the gang’s presence in Aqaba because they entered Jordan on forged passports.
Saguy agreed it was unlikely that either Jordan or Egypt had prior knowledge of the gang or its mission. Immediately after the attack was thwarted, however, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens and Benjamin Netanyahu, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, held Jordan responsible. Jordan denied the charge.