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Italian Cruise Ship Hijacked Off Egypt by Palestinians : Terrorists Demand Israel Release Prisoners; 400 People Are on Liner

October 08, 1985|DON A. SCHANCHE | Times Staff Writer

Konaitery was one of four men responsible for the 1979 hostage incident in Nahariya in which an Israeli man and his 5-year-old daughter were murdered. Two of the four terrorists were killed in a subsequent shootout with Israeli troops on the Nahariya beach. Konaitery and another man were captured, but the other man was freed last May 20 as part of a prisoner exchange with Palestinian radicals.

The 50 Palestinian prisoners whose release was demanded may include those people who have been captured since April on three boats seized by the Israeli navy. Some of the 50 are believed to be members of the elite Force 17 commando unit of the PLO. On Aug. 30, Israeli navy gunboats captured a yacht carrying 20 members of Force 17, a unit originally organized by Arafat to guard him personally. In two earlier incidents, the Israelis took 16 other Palestinian guerrillas into custody.

Italian Foreign Ministry sources said they would be surprised if Arafat or people under his control had anything to do with the hijacking, because Italy's relations with the Palestinian group are among the best in Europe.

They noted that both Craxi and Andreotti strongly condemned Israel's bombing of PLO headquarters in Tunisia last week, and Andreotti even compared the raid to Nazi atrocities in Italy during World War II. Andreotti also was instrumental in arranging Arafat's private audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1983.

The luxury cruise liner embarked on what was to have been an 11-day cruise from Genoa on Oct. 3, with stops scheduled at Naples, Syracuse (Sicily), Alexandria, Port Said, Ashdod (Israel), Cyprus, and the island of Rhodes before returning to Genoa on Oct. 14, according to the Naples Port Authority.

The 23,269-ton liner, which was built in 1947, was named after the late Neapolitan shipping magnate who lost his fleet in a financial crash two years ago.

Times staff writer Dan Fisher, in Jerusalem, contributed to this story.

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