Background - Cyprus terrorist attack
After being driven out of Lebanon in the 1982 Lebanon War
, the PLO
moved its headquarters to Tunisia
. On September 25, 1985, three gunmen hijacked an Israeli yacht
off the coast of Larnaca
, and killed three Israeli tourists on board. The victims were Reuven Paltsur, 53, his wife Esther 50, both of Haifa, and their friend Avraham Avneri, 53, of Arad who had taken a vacation cruise to nearby Cyprus marina, a popular spot for Israelis.
Paltsur, who owned the yacht, was described as a dedicated sailor, active in the Sea Scouts and other movements promoting seafaring among Israelis.
The heavily armed perpetrators were Elias Yehiya and Nasif Mahmoud and George Hannah, all who self-identified as Palestinian and committed the act in the name of Palestinian nationalism. The later was identified as British citizen lan Michael Davison who had joined the PLO cause and fought alongside Yasser Arafat two years prior.
The other two said they were from Lebanon.
An anonymous caller told the Jerusalem office of Agence France Presse
that the attack was carried out by the PLO's elite Force 17
unit. However, PLO officials denied that.
The Israelis were allowed to write down their final thoughts before being shot. The nature of the killings provoked widespread shock in Israel. The PLO claimed that the victims were Mossad
agents monitoring Palestinian naval traffic out of Cyprus. They said attack was a response for the capture and imprisonment of senior Force 17 commander Faisal Abu Sharah
by the Israeli Navy
two weeks earlier. Sharah had been sailing on the Opportunity
, a small ship that regularly shuttled between Beirut
and Larnaca, when it was stopped by an Israeli naval patrol boat
with Mossad agents on board. Sharah was arrested, taken to Israel and interrogated. He was then tried and given a heavy prison sentence. Since then, the Israeli Navy and the Mossad had intercepted several other vessels and arrested passengers suspected of terrorist activity.
Israel asked for the extradition of the killers, but Cyprus authorities preferred to have them tried in their country.
On the eve of the attack, Tunisia expressed concern to the United States that it might be attacked by Israel. However, the United States, according to a high-ranking Tunisian official, assured Tunisia there was no reason to worry.
The F-15s flew low over the shore, and fired precision-guided munitions
on the PLO headquarters, a cluster of sand-colored buildings along the seaside. The planes attacked the southern location first, so that the northern wind would not pull smoke over the northern targets.
The attack lasted for six minutes, after which the F-15s flew back to Israel, refueled again by the Boeing 707.
The PLO headquarters were completely destroyed, although Yasser Arafat
, the head of the organization, was not there at the time and escaped unharmed. Israel claimed that some 60 PLO members were killed, including several leaders of Force 17, and several of Arafat's bodyguards. In addition, the operation resulted in casualties among civilian bystanders.
According to other sources, 56 Palestinians and 15 Tunisians were killed and about 100 wounded.
Hospital sources put the final count at 47 dead and 65 wounded.
Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk
reported from the scene ("a vacation resort with several dozen homes, vacation cottages and PLO offices side by side and intermingled in such a way that even from close by it is difficult to distinguish" among them):
The people who were in the bombed buildings were mangled beyond recognition. They showed me a series of pictures of the dead. "You may take them," I was told. I left the pictures in the office. No newspaper in the world would publish terror photos such as these. I was told that a Tunisian boy who sold sandwiches near the headquarters was torn to pieces. His father identified the body by a scar on his ankle. "Some of the wounded were brought out from under the rubble, apparently healthy and unhurt," my guide told me. "Half an hour later they collapsed in contortions and died. Apparently their internal organs had been destroyed from the power of the blast."
Because the attack was conducted so far from Israel, Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba
said in a 1990 article that he believed that attack plan must have been known of by the United States, if not actually involving American collaboration.
Following the arrest of Jonathan Pollard in November 1985, it was reported that Israeli reprisal was assisted thanks to satellite images that Pollard transmitted to Israel.
In Pollard's court defense memorandum he stated that his Israeli handlers "stressed the fact that the mission could not have been undertaken without the information I made available."
Within Tunisia, there was public outrage. For a week after the attack, the country's small Jewish community found itself the target of individual acts of antisemitism, such as insults and stone-throwing against Jewish shops. On October 8, 1985, on the island of Djerba
, a Tunisian police officer whose brother had been killed at the PLO headquarters fired into the El Ghriba synagogue
during Simchat Torah
services, killing 5-year-old Yoav Hadad, 14-year-old Yehudit Bucharis and 56-year-old Haim Cohen.
- ^ "Three Israelis Killed In 10-Hour Yacht Siege". AP NEWS. Retrieved 2020-12-31.
- ^ "Israel to Seek Extradition of Terrorist Killers of Three Israelis". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 1985-09-27. Retrieved 2020-12-31.
- ^ "3 Terrorists Who Murdered 3 Israelis in Cyprus Are Not Likely to Be Extradited to Israel to Stand Trial".
- ^ a b Kifner, John; Times, Special To the New York (1985-09-29). "GUNMAN IN CYPRUS SAID TO BE BRITON (Published 1985)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-31.
- ^ Times, Margaret L. Rogg and Special To the New York. "3 ISRAELIS SLAIN BY PALESTINIANS IN CYPRUS". Retrieved 2018-08-15.
- ^ Seale, 1993. p237
- ^ Black, Edwin (20 June 2002). "Does Jonathan Pollard Deserve a Life Sentence?". History News Network. Retrieved 24 November 2009.
- ^ Gordon Thomas (19 November 2015). Gideon's Spies: Mossad's Secret Warriors. Pan Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-5098-2529-5.
- ^ a b c d W. Seelye, Talcott (March 1990). "Ben Ali Visit Marks Third Stage in 200-Year-Old US-Tunisian Special Relationship". The Washington Report. p. 7.
- ^ https://www.iaf.org.il/5642-46126-en/IAF.aspx
- ^ Black, Ian: Israel's Secret Wars: A History of Israel's Intelligence Services
- ^ http://www.iaf.org.il/46940-33087-en/IAF.aspx
- ^ Seale, 1993. p.238
- ^ Yediot Ahronot, 15 November 1985.
- ^ United Nations Security Council ResolutionS/RES/573(1985) 4 October 1985. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
- ^ Blitzer, Wolf (1987-02-15). "POLLARD NOT A BUMBLER, BUT ISRAEL'S MASTER SPY". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-12-31.
- ^ "Defendant Jonathan J. Pollard's First Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing," United States of America v. Jonathan J. Pollard, United States Court for the District Court of Columbia., Criminal No. 86-0207., August 20, 1986". nsarchive.gwu.edu. p. 33. Retrieved 2020-12-31.
- ^ https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4614387,00.html
Last edited on 1 May 2021, at 22:58
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