Probe: Fishing boat smuggling fugitive

Navy sinks Palestinian boat after crew refuses to respond to warnings; 1 killed.

An Israel Navy ship sank a Palestinian ship off the coast of the Gaza Strip, killing one of its crew, early Saturday morning. According to an in-depth probe of the incident Saturday, army investigators concluded that the Palestinian fishing boat was trying to smuggle a fugitive with a history of terrorist activities from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. The dead fisherman was identified as Ziad Dardawel, 22. The investigations also revealed that before opening fire, the soldiers warned the boat's crew, then fired multiple shots into the air. Despite repeated calls from the navy to stop, the Palestinian ship, designed to carry one or two people, continued on its course. Only then did the navy ship fire towards the ship, killing the man believed to be a fugitive. Under the cover of early morning darkness at around 4:30 a.m., the small craft was apparently attempting to illegally re-enter Palestinian waters after entering Egyptian territory. The navy's Shaldag-class gunboat fired warning shots in the air, to which the suspicious ship responded by firing directly at the gunboat. Shots were also fired at the navy ship from the Gaza shore. Seeing that the Palestinian boat was trying to escape, the navy opened fire and sank it. Palestinian security officials said the Israeli ship opened fire at several fishing boats without provocation. They said the fishermen were in an authorized fishing area, and the military vessel attacked without firing any warning shots. They said the Israelis had fired warning shots in similar situations in the past. Only two days prior to this incident, a navy patrol off the Gaza coast arrested two Palestinians in a fishing craft overnight Wednesday. The two were handed over to the Shin Bet for questioning. Further details were barred from publication. In preparation for the disengagement from Gaza, the navy constructed a barrier that extends from the Gaza-Israel border's northern security road into the Mediterranean to prevent Palestinian terrorists from swimming up the Israeli coast. In the past five years there have been a number of attempts by terrorists to infiltrate Israeli communities from the sea.
  • Last November, a heavily armed terrorist in a wetsuit was shot and killed after naval surveillance spotted him attempting to swim in from the sea and attack a settlement in northern Gaza.
  • In November 2003, security forces arrested an Islamic Jihad fugitive who was recruited to assist in planning and launching attacks from the sea.
  • In January 2003, an Israeli navy gunboat on a routine patrol off the north Gaza coast spotted a suspicious craft sailing in a restricted area. When the craft ignored warning shots to halt, the crew shot it, and the explosive-ridden craft blew up.
  • In November 2002, a naval command post in the Gaza Strip spotted a Palestinian fishing craft that had entered Israel's territorial waters and was sailing in a restricted area. A navy gunship was sent to inspect the boat, whose crew ignored calls to halt and blew up near the gunboat, wounding three soldiers.
  • In August 2002, a naval command post in the Gaza Strip spotted an armed terrorist wearing a wetsuit leaving the water and approaching a nearby Israeli community. An IDF patrol sent out by the command post shot and killed him. He was carrying a Kalashnikov rifle, eight grenades, four ammunition clips and two containers of acid.
  • In July 2002, security officials seized a shipment of guns and other weapons intended for the Palestinian Authority at the port of Ashdod. Two months earlier, a container had been packed with crates supposedly filled with a donation of toys sent to the Gaza Strip by an Islamic charity, but officials found they contained hundreds of kilograms of guns, ammunition, telescopic lenses, and night-vision equipment.
  • In June 2002, IDF units thwarted an attempt by terrorists to infiltrate Israel in the north Gaza Strip. Security forces spotted two terrorists swimming near Dugit in an attempt to enter Israel via the sea. The soldiers shot and killed the terrorists, who were carrying a bag with shrapnel grenades, a Kalashnikov rifle and four ammunition clips.
  • In January 2002, Israel naval commandos intercepted the Karine-A weapons ship en route to the Suez Canal carrying over 50 tons of weapons. AP contributed to this report