Savoy Hotel Attack
|Savoy Hotel Attack|
|Part of Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon|
|Location||Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv, Israel|
|Date||4-5 March 1973|
|Shooting spree, Hostage taking|
|Deaths||8 civilian hostages, 3 Israeli soldiers, 7 Fatah terrorists|
|Perpetrators||8 Palestinian assailants. The Palestinian Liberation Organization claimed responsibility.|
Initial Palestinian planning had called for an attack against the Israeli tourist city of Nahariya, yet the team was apparently unable to locate the city on the night of a previous attempt, two months earlier. The operation's objectives were then changed to the Manshiya Neighborhood Youth Club and the Tel Aviv Opera Building. The contingency plan in case the original targets could not be located was to select any nearby buildings that were populated as targets. The Savoy Hotel was picked due to it being the only illuminated building on the street.
The attackers were told to take hostages, then demand the release of Palestinian prisoners, as well as air transport out of Israel to Damascus. If the negotiations failed, they were told to kill their hostages and commit suicide. In the event of capture, they were instructed to tell their interrogators that they had come from Egypt, in the hope that this would result in a breakdown of ongoing Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations, and to direct Israeli retaliation away from Lebanon.
At 11:00 p.m. on the night of 4 March 1973, eight Palestinians in two teams landed by boat on the Tel Aviv beach at the foot of Allenby Street. They had departed from the Lebanese port of Sarafenda, near Tyre on an Egyptian merchant ship. When the ship was about 60 miles off Tel Aviv, the teams were lowered in a boat, and landed on the shore. After they landed on the beach, they ran into the streets, shooting and throwing grenades. They initially tried to break into a movie theater on Herbert Samuel Street. After they failed, they continued down the street and took over the Savoy Hotel, at the corner of HaYarkon and Geula streets, near the center of the city. During the takeover of the hotel, three people were killed. Three people managed to escape in the confusion, but most guests and staff were taken hostage.
Private Moshe Deutschmann, a soldier from the Israeli army's Golani Brigade who was on home leave at the time, grabbed his weapon and ran to the hotel after hearing gunfire. Meanwhile, the militants attempted to leave the hotel with hostages to continue the raid. Deutschmann saw them at the entrance to the hotel, and engaged them. In the exchange of fire, Deutschmann was hit. He managed to crawl away, and was later evacuated Hadassah Medical Center, where he died of his injures. Deutschmann was posthumously awarded the Medal of Distinguished Service.
Israeli security forces soon arrived on the scene, and the Palestinians barricaded themselves in the hotel with their hostages, detonated an explosive charge which caused part of the building to collapse, and threatened that if Israel did not release 20 Palestinian prisoners within four hours, the hostages would be executed. According to an eyewitness account:
When I went into the street, I saw a night-marish spectacle. Red tracer bullets streaked through the night air. The four-story Savoy Hotel, illuminated by floodlights, was surrounded by troops, local police and border police in full battle regalia. Military vehicles, armored cars and personnel carriers clogged the surrounding streets. Red Magen David ambulance crews were administering first aid to wounded civilians on the sidewalks and gutters. Looking out to sea, the blinding light of magnesium flares revealed naval patrol boats cruising just off the beach.
Israeli security forces conducted negotiations with the militants. One hostage, Kochava Levy, became a mediator between the security forces and militants, as she spoke Arabic. During the negotiations, Levy provided the security forces detailed information on the militants.
Early the next morning, the Israeli counter-terrorism unit Sayeret Matkal stormed the hotel, killing seven of the perpetrators and capturing the eighth. Five hostages were freed, while five were killed. They were of various nationalities. Two soldiers, including former Sayeret Matkal commander Uzi Yairi, were also killed.
A few hours after the rescue operation, the ship that had transported the militants was captured on the high seas by the Israeli Navy, about 70 miles west of Haifa, and its crew was arrested. One crewman was sentenced to life in prison, while three others were given prison terms of 5-10 years.
Members of the Savoy cell included Musa Juma al-Tallka, the sole survivor, Muhammad Mashala, Hader Muhammad, Ziad Talk al-Zrir, Musa Awad, Muhammed al-Masri, Abu al-Lel, and Ahmed Hamid, who were all killed by the Israeli troops. Tallka was tried in a military court, convicted, and sentenced to death by hanging in March 1976. His death sentence was commuted. The bodies of those killed were released by the IDF in May 2012.
The partially destroyed Savoy Hotel was completely demolished, and a new hotel of the same name was built in its place. The new Savoy Hotel opened in 1987. At its entrance is a memorial plaque with the names of the victims of the attack.
In August 2012, it was reported that the Ramallah municipality approved the construction of a mausoleum to honor the eight Palestinians who were involved in the attack (the vote was initially reported by the PA daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida and subsequently translated into English by Palestinian Media Watch). The decision to build the mausoleum coincides with the return of the perpetrators' remains, which were among the bodies of 91 Palestinian terrorists repatriated to the Palestinian Authority in June 2012 as an Israeli good-will gesture.
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