JERUSALEM, JUNE 6 -- A man identified as one of the participants in an attempted attack on the Israeli shoreline last week said on state television here that "the aim of the operation was to murder civilians."
The man, who identified himself as Ahmed Mohammed Yusef, 28, a Palestinian born in Syria, appeared Tuesday night on Israel Television's Arabic-language news service, six days after Israeli forces intercepted two speedboats filled with Palestinian fighters near Tel Aviv. Four of the Palestinians were killed and 12 captured in the abortive attack, which caused no Israeli casualties.
Yusef, speaking in Arabic, said that the Palestinians had the objective of attacking the Tel Aviv hotel district along the city's Mediterranean beaches. "As for the Tel Aviv hotel district, we were supposed to bombard it with 23mm and 14.5mm shells, murder civilians, cleanse the hotel and murder anyone we encountered," he said, according to an English translation distributed by the government press office.
The Palestinian also confirmed Israel's account that the attack was carried out by the Palestine Liberation Front, a faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and was supported by Libya. He said the Palestinians trained for the attack in Libya, were carried to the site in Libyan boats, and were accompanied to the launching point by a Libyan liaison officer.
The account was aggressively promoted here by the Israeli government, which is campaigning to persuade the United States to break off its political dialogue with the PLO as a result of the attack. The interview contradicted some reports here and in the Arab world that the Palestinians intended to attack military rather than civilian targets, in keeping with the PLO's 1988 pledge to give up terrorism.
According to official accounts, the attackers never approached either the hotel district in Tel Aviv or significant military targets. One of the two boats intercepted by the Israelis was captured offshore north of Tel Aviv, while another landed on a deserted beach some 21 miles south and was surrounded by Israeli air and land forces.
According to Israeli witnesses, the second boat passed within several hundred yards of a beach crowded with thousands of civilian bathers, but the 11 Palestinians aboard did not open fire.