JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said today that the PLO's plans to send a ship loaded with 200 Palestinian deportees to Israel are "a declaration of war" against the Jewish state.
Shamir said those seeking to return sought to kill Jews.
"In the height of nerve and hypocrisy, the leaders of the organization of murderers talks about return, the Ship of Return, a boat which they want to load with killers, terrorists and those who want to kill us, every one of us," the prime minister said.
He spoke at a memorial for 44 Morocco Jews who died when their ship sank in a storm while trying to immigrate illegally to Israel in 1961.
Shamir did not say what Israel will do to stop the Palestine Liberation Organization from carrying out its plans to send a boat carrying deportees to Israel's northern port of Haifa.
'A Hostile Act'
However, Shamir said, "we regard this as a hostile act, an act which threatens Israel. The return of the Arabs is a slogan, a declaration of war against the entire Israeli nation and the state of Israel."
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was quoted by Israel's state-owned television as saying authorities would block the ship: "We were not asked to allow the boat to enter, and we will not let it enter our territory."
In Athens, PLO representative Fouad Bittar said the ship will carry 600 people--200 observers, 200 journalists, and the Palestinian deportees. The ship is to leave Athens on Wednesday. Bittar said it will reach Haifa about Feb. 15 after stopping in Cyprus.
Last week, organizers said the voyage was canceled because plans to charter a ship fell through, but they later said another vessel has been obtained.
Bittar said progress toward peace would be encouraged if the Israelis accepted the ship, which will be called Al Awdah, or Ship of Return.
Four Palestinians expelled from the Israeli-occupied West Bank since a wave of violence began in the occupied territories Dec. 8 flew to Athens on Monday and plan to board the ship.
Flotilla of Small Boats
Avi Pazner, a spokesman for Shamir, endorsed an effort by a group of more than 100 Israeli victims of terrorism. They announced plans to sail a flotilla of small boats out to confront the PLO ship.
"It would show the media who the real victims are and the suffering caused by those on the (PLO) boat," said Pazner.
The anti-Arab Kach Party of Rabbi Meir Kahane also announced plans to set sail in a ship named There Is No Palestine, a press release said.
Meanwhile, Palestinian press reports today said a 16-year-old Palestinian youth was shot to death in a clash with Israeli soldiers Monday night in the West Bank village of Atteel.
The Israeli army confirmed the death and said it is investigating the circumstances.
The latest death raises the toll from the wave of Palestinian unrest in Israel and the occupied territories to at least 49.