The trial of two Palestinian terrorists, who participated in the coastal road massacre 17 months ago, opened here today before a military court presided over by Col. Aharon Kolperin. The two terrorists were represented by an Israeli lawyer, Lea Zemel.
Haled Mouhammed Ibrhim Housein, 22, and Ibrahim Mahmoud Fuad, 19, are charged with 13 counts of murdering 34 civilians and injuring 73 others after a bus full of passengers was hijacked near Kibbutz Maagan Michael south of Haifa. The two terrorists were part of an II-member raiding party which landed on the beach near Maagen Michael and killed, on its way to the highway, American nature photographer Gail Rubin of New York. Housein and Fuad are the only survivors of the raiding terrorist group. The others were killed in a shootout with police.
The two defendants admitted being members of the El Fatah terrorist organization and part of the raiding group but they told the military court today that they did not participate in the actual shootings because the rubber boat that brought them from Lebanon capsized before they landed on Israel’s coast and they lost their arms in the accident.
SOUGHT RELEASE OF JAILED TERRORISTS
The prosecutor told the court that before landing near Maagan Michael the terrorists made three attempts to reach the coast of Tel Aviv, planning to take over one of Tel Aviv’s hotels and then demand the release of jailed terrorists in Israel. But because of technical difficulties and poor navigation they did not reach Tel Aviv and landed instead in Maagan Michael–many miles north of the target. From there, the prosecutor charged, the terrorists, including the two on trial, started their rampage.
The coastal road massacre on a Saturday night in March 1978, stunned the world for its cruelty and brutality. Should the two defendants be convicted the prosecution may demand the death penalty. The death penalty is not in effect in Israel, although the Israeli government recently empowered courts to apply it in cases of crimes of extreme inhumanity.
The opening of the trial today was marked by tension and a ###ort, incident between relatives of the victims and the two terrorists. The incident occurred when the defendants entered the courtroom with smiles on their faces and their fingers raised in a victory sign. This infuriated one of the spectators who lost control of himself and spit at the two, who in return spit back at him. The courtroom was stunned for a moment but order was immediately restored.
Today’s trial session adjourned without a new date being set for future sessions.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.