NICOSIA, Cyprus — A car bomb killed three senior officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the Cypriot resort of Limassol on Sunday. The PLO, accusing Israel, vowed revenge.
"They were murdered by the Israeli Mossad secret service," the PLO said in a statement from its Cyprus office.
"This ugly new crime committed by Israeli intelligence will not pass without retribution. The people of Palestine and their revolution know how to teach the Israeli enemy a lesson they will not forget," it said.
Security sources said the Palestinians were killed when a bomb in their car was detonated by remote control in the tourist district of the coastal resort.
Israeli Ambassador Aharon Lopez denied any Israeli involvement in the blast. He decried what he called Palestinian imaginary accusations.
"It is not the first time they blame the Israelis when they settle their own accounts. They are trying to kill two birds with one stone," Lopez said.
But one PLO source told Reuters: "There is no advantage for anyone in killing them except the Mossad."
He said the attack was a warning to the PLO and Palestinians who have staged violent anti-Israeli demonstrations in the occupied territories for more than two months. At least 54 Palestinians have been killed.
He said it was also intended to make the PLO reconsider its plans to send Palestinian deportees back to Israel by boat from Greece.
The boat is scheduled to leave today for the northern Israeli port of Haifa with more than 100 Palestinians who have been deported from Israel over the years, as well as 300 journalists and 200 observers.
The boat, whose departure has been postponed several times over the last week, is to stop in the Cypriot port of Larnaca to pick up more Palestinians.
PLO officials identified the victims of the car bomb as Col. Marwan Ibrahim Kayyali, a member of the Military Council of the Palestinian Revolution, and Lt. Cols. Mohammed Basim Tamimi and Mohammed Hassan Buhais.
The Cyprus police later gave different identifications for the men, naming them as Idrisi Muien Fadel (alias Marwan), 36, with a Moroccan passport; Ghazi Ali Kassem, 34, with a Lebanese passport, and Mohammed Basem Sultan (also known as Hamdi), 37, with a Jordanian passport.
The Cyprus News Agency reported that an anonymous telephone caller claimed responsibility for the attack.
The agency reported that the caller said "the group of martyr Lt. Col. Ruseel Elghoul carried out this penalty against Idrisi because of his involvement in planning the killing of Lt. Col. Ruseel Elghoul, the leader of 417, in Lebanon, in August, 1987. . . ."
Rassem Ghoul, head of PLO leader Yasser Arafat's elite Force 17 guerrilla group, was killed in south Lebanon last August in what appeared to have been an internal Palestinian dispute.