Palestinian guerrillas on Saturday (11 March) blew up a hijacked bus full of Israeli men, women and children just north of Tel Aviv.
Palestinian guerrillas on Saturday (11 March) blew up a hijacked bus full of Israeli men, women and children just north of Tel Aviv. Early unofficial estimates put the civilian death toll at 26 and the number of wounded at about 70. Earlier in the day the guerrillas of the Fatah commando group had come ashore in rubber boats about 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of Haifa. They launched what Palestinian military spokesmen in Beirut, Lebanon, described as a major military operation inside Israel. The spokesman said that several Palestinian units, fighting Israeli troops on a broad front, extending from Tel Aviv to Haifa, had killed at least 33 Israeli soldiers and wounded many more.
SYNOPSIS: Ambulances and fire engines had sped to the burning bus on the coastal highway about 13 kilometres (eight miles) north of Tel Aviv. It had burst into flames after a bomb exploded amid more than sixty hostages on board??? Moments before, it had run into a police ambush and crashed onto its side after snipers shot out its tyres. The passengers were adults and children on a pleasure outing during the Jewish sabbath. Eyewitnesses said the guerrillas had earlier seized a taxi and attacked another bus on the busy coastal highway. After the hijacking, the guerrillas fired at passing traffic as they roared towards Tel Aviv.
The guerrillas fled into sand dunes at the rear of a nearby luxury country club. Helicopters packed with hundreds of security troops swiftly reached the scene. They fanned out in an intensive search, took up positions behind parked vehicles, and poured into seaside hotels to protect residents. Special squads of the Jewish Rabbinate, the only authorised personnel to handle corpses in Israel, turned up to be ready to begin sorting out the charred remains of dead. One of the victims was identified as a girl of about five years with a tooth brush in her hand.
The attack was the most savage that Palestinian guerrillas had attempted in the heart of Israel. It came three years after their commandos launched a seaborne assault on Tel Aviv and seized a hotel in an attack in which 18 people died. In Beirut, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation called this latest raid 'a rejection of the capitulationist solution' -- a reference to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's peace overtures towards Israel.
The death count rose quickly. Eyewitnesses tallied eight dead in a pile of corpses and hospitals reported nine others dead and dozen injured, with the toll growing as rescue workers continued their work.
Some of the wounded were retrieved from the roadside along the path of the hijacked bus's last run - a path also marked with bullet-shattered??? cars.
A communique released by the Palestinian News Agency WAFA in Beirut said the attack had been code-named 'The Operation of the Martyr Kamal Adwan'. He was one of three Palestinian leaders killed by Israeli raiders who attacked their homes in Beirut in April 1973. The communique said the Fatah unit had launched the raid from its base in occupied Palestine. The organisation did not specify which had been its main targets in Israel.