Coastal Road massacre

Coastal Road massacre
Coastal Road massacre
Israel outline center ta.png
Red pog.svg
The attack site
Location Coastal Highway near Tel Aviv
Coordinates 32°8′52.64″N 34°48′11.35″E / 32.1479556°N 34.8031528°E / 32.1479556; 34.8031528
Date March 11, 1978
Attack type Mass murder, spree killing, shooting attack
Weapon(s) Various weapons, possible grenade
Death(s) 38 Israeli civilians (including 13 children)[1]
Injured 71 were wounded.[1]
Perpetrator 11 Palestinian assailants. The Palestinian Liberation Organization claimed responsibility.

The Coastal Road massacre of 1978 was an attack involving the hijacking of a bus on Israel's Coastal Highway in which 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, were killed, and 71 were wounded.[1][2] The attack was planned by Abu Jihad[3] and carried out by the PLO faction Fatah. The plan was to seize a luxury hotel in Tel Aviv and take tourists and foreign ambassadors hostage in order to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.[4] The timing was aimed at scuttling peace talks between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat.[5] However, due to a navigation error, the attackers ended up 40 miles (64 km) north of their target, and were forced to find alternative transportation to their destination.[6]

According to a Fatah commander who had helped to plan the attack, it was designed to derail the Israeli-Egyptian peace talks and to damage tourism in Israel.[6]

Time magazine characterized it as "the worst terrorist attack in Israel's history".[5] Fatah called the hijacking "Operation of the Martyr Kamal Adwan,"[7] after the PLO chief of operations killed in the Israeli commando raid on Beirut in April 1973.[8][9] In response, the Israeli military forces launched Operation Litani against PLO bases in Lebanon three days later.


The attack

On the morning of March 11, 1978, eleven Palestinian militants including Dalal Mughrabi[10] landed by Zodiac boats on a beach near Ma'agan Michael north of Tel Aviv, having departed from Lebanon with a stash of Kalashnikov rifles, rocket propelled grenades, light mortars and high explosives. They met American photographer Gail Rubin, who was taking nature photographs on the beach, and after she told them where they in fact were, they killed her.[6] They then walked less than a mile up to the four-lane highway, opened fire at passing cars and hijacked a white Mercedes taxi, killing its occupants.[5] Setting off down the highway toward Tel Aviv, they hijacked a bus carrying Egged bus drivers and their families on a day outing, along the Coastal Highway.

During the ride, the militants shot and threw grenades at passing cars, shot at the passengers and threw at least one body out of the bus.[5] At one point they commandeered another bus, and forced the passengers from the first bus to board the second one.[5]

The bus was finally stopped by a police roadblock near Herzliya, and a long shootout ensued.[5] Passengers who attempted to escape were shot by one of the terrorists.[5] Time Magazine speculated that more hostages may have been killed by the wild shooting of the "terrified" Israeli traffic policemen than by the militants, since there was not time enough for special Israeli antiterrorist squads to arrive on the scene. Furthermore it was speculated that the fire may have driven some of the terrorists to commit suicide, killing as many passengers as possible with them.[6] An explosion, caused either by an exploding fuel tank or a grenade, set the bus on fire.[11]

38 Israeli civilians were killed in the attack, 13 of them children, and 71 were wounded.[12]


Memorial near Glilot Interchange on the coastal Highway

The perpetrators

Palestinian militant group PLO claimed responsibility for the attack, which was executed by eleven Palestinian militants including Dalal Mughrabi.

Official reactions

Involved parties


  • Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin stated in a press conference that Israel "shall not forget the carnage". and added that "there was no need of this outrage to understand that a Palestinian state would be a mortal danger to our nation and our people".[47]


  • a PLO official statement was released which stated "The operation stems from the firm belief of Fatah in the necessity of carrying on the armed struggle against the Zionist enemy within the occupied land".[48]
  •  Egypt: Egyptian president Anwar Sadat condemned the attack as "an irresponsible action" and indirectly appealed to Israel not to stike back.[49]
  •  United States: US president Jimmy Carter released a statement saying the attack was a "an outrageous act of lawlessness and senseless brutality. Criminal acts such as this advance no cause or political belief. They inspire only revulsion at the lack of respect for innocent human life".[48]


Israeli retaliation

In a statement to the press delivered the following day, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin stated, "They came here in order to kill the Jews. They intended to take hostages, and threatened, as the leaflet they left said, to kill all of them if we do not surrender to their demands... We shall not forget. And I can only call upon other nations not to forget that Nazi atrocity that was perpetrated upon our people yesterday."[50]

Speaking to the Knesset on March 13, Begin said, "Gone forever are the days when Jewish blood could be shed with impunity. Let it be known: The shedders of innocent blood shall not go unpunished. We shall defend our citizens, our women, our children. We shall sever the arm of iniquity."[51]

On March 15, three days after the massacre, Israel launched Operation Litani against PLO bases in southern Lebanon. The IDF spokesman stated, "The objective of the operation is not retaliation for the terrorists' crimes, for there can be no retaliation for the murder of innocent men, women and children - but to protect the state of Israel and its citizens from incursions of members of the Fatah and PLO, who use Lebanese territory in order to attack citizens of Israel."[52]

Palestinian glorification of hijackers

Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli NGO that monitors antisemitism and support for terrorism in Palestinian society, has cited examples of Palestinian media that regard Dalal Mughrabi as a heroine and role model.[53] A Hebron girls' school was briefly named in honor of Mughrabi but the name was changed after it emerged that USAID was funding the school. Her name has also been given to summer camps and both police and military courses.[54] In February 2011 Palestinian Media Watch exposed a pan-Arab feminist media campaign promoting Mughrabi as a role model for women in the Arab world.[55]

During the 2008 Israel-Hezbollah prisoner swap, Israel intended to transfer her body to Hezbollah, however DNA testing showed that it was not among the exhumed corpses.[56]

Several locations under Palestinian Authority control have been named after Mughrabi.[57]

Criticism of Israeli immediate security response

The Israeli security forces handling of the incident, including the final gun battle at the blockade where the bus was stopped,[5][6] led to widespread criticism in Israel. The security forces were also criticized for the fact that the militants were reportedly able to land undetected in broad daylight, and then move inland to ambush a taxi and then the two buses. There was also criticism that the security forces did not immediately block off the highway as soon as they were aware that a bus with hostages aboard had been hijacked.[58]

Controversy surrounding alleged involvement of Ehud Barak

While there was not time enough to order up special Israeli antiterrorist squads before the confrontation, and the Israeli rescue attempt was reportedly led by some 30 "terrified traffic cops", armed only with .38 revolvers and UZI submachine guns,[6][5] other reports say that Ehud Barak, then an officer in the Sayeret Matkal anti-terrorism unit, led the rescue operation. According to Hugh Macleod, a British journalist, there are reports of images of him firing shots into her dead body as it lay on the road.[59][60][61] A different version of the story was published by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida , the official daily newspaper of the Palestinian National Authority, on March 11, 2002, in which "Ehud Barak, ... stuck the bayonet of his rifle into the Martyr El Mughrabi’s body, as well as performing other atrocities on intimate parts of her body". Itamar Marcus of the Israeli media monitoring group Palestinian Media Watch called the allegations against Barak "revolting libel".[62]

See also

External links


  1. ^ a b c "1978, March 11. The Coastal Road Massacre" Richard Ernest Dupuy, Trevor Nevitt Dupuy. The Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500 B.C. to the Present, Harper & Row, 1986, ISBN 0061812358, p. 1362.
  2. ^ "Operation Litani is launched in retaliation for that month's Coastal Road massacre." Gregory S. Mahler. Politics and Government in Israel: The Maturation of a Modern State, Rowman & Littlefield, 2004, ISBN 0742516113, p. 259.
  3. ^ "Israel's successful assassinations" (in Hebrew). MSN. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  4. ^ Moshe Brilliant, "Israeli officials Say Gunmen Intended to Seize Hotel," The New York Times, 13 March 1978
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "A Sabbath of Terror", Time magazine, March 20, 1978.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Tragedy of errors". Time (magazine) March 27, 1978. 1978-03-27.,9171,916011,00.html?promoid=googlep. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  7. ^ Edgar O'Ballance (1979). "Language of Violence: The Blood Politics of Terrorism", p.289, Presidio Press (Original from the University of Michigan), ISBN 0891410201, 9780891410201
  8. ^ "An Eye For An Eye". CBS. 2001-11-20. Retrieved 2001-11-21. 
  9. ^ Greenaway, HDS, "Arab Terrorist Raid in Israel Kills 30," Washington Post, 12 March 1978.
  10. ^ Coastal road terrorist: No apologies, Haaretz. According to Abu Absa, one of the surviving Palestinian perpetrators, Mughrabi was the only woman in the group and she was not the commander.
  11. ^ Kim Willenson, Milan J. Kubic and William E. Schmidt, "Slaughter in Israel," Newsweek, 20 March 1978
  12. ^ Deeb, Marius (July 2003). Syria's Terrorist War on Lebanon and the Peace Process. Palgrave McMillian. p. 39. ISBN 1-4039-6248-0. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae found at National Insurance Institute of Israel (NII)
  14. ^ רויטל טלי אהרונוביץ ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  15. ^ נעמי אליחי ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  16. ^ ארז אלפנד ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  17. ^ יצחק אלפנד ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  18. ^ גלית אנקווה ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  19. ^ יצחק איציק אנקווה ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  20. ^ חביב אנקווה ז"ל  NII (Hebrew)
  21. ^ מטילדה מטי אשכנזי דניאל ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  22. ^ יהודה בסטרמן ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  23. ^ רינה בושקניץ ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  24. ^ דב בושקניץ ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  25. ^ ליאת גלאון ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  26. ^ שמעון גלוטמן ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  27. ^ אמנון דרורי ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  28. ^ נעמה הדני ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  29. ^ אילן הוכמן ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  30. ^ רועי הוכמן ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  31. ^ רבקה הוכמן ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  32. ^ מרדכי מוטי זית ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  33. ^ יוסף חלואני ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  34. ^ מלכה טוני ליבוביץ וייס ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  35. ^ ציונה לוזיה כהן ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  36. ^ אברהם לוזיה ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  37. ^ אוטרי מנשרוב ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  38. ^ יואב יואבי משקל ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  39. ^ טוביה רוזנר ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  40. ^ 'Gail Rubin,' Jewish Women's Encyclopedia
  41. ^ גייל רובין ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  42. ^ מאיר סגל ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  43. ^ קטיה רינה סוסינסקי ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  44. ^ יוסף סוסינסקי ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  45. ^ צבי צביקה עשת ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  46. ^ אמרי תל-אורן ז"ל  (Hebrew)
  47. ^ The Telegraph-Herald - Google News Archive Search
  48. ^ a b Reading Eagle - Google News Archive Search
  49. ^ The Pittsburgh Press - Google News Archive Search
  50. ^ "Statement to the press by Prime Minister Begin on the massacre of Israelis on the Haifa - Tel Aviv Road". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 12 March 1978. Retrieved 18 April 2010. 
  51. ^ "Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Begin on the terrorist raid and the Knesset resolution". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 13 March 1978. Retrieved 18 April 2010. 
  52. ^ "Israel Defence Forces statement on the operation in Lebanon". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 15 March 1978. Retrieved 18 April 2010. 
  53. ^ Special report # 39: Palestinian Culture and Society (Study #6 -Mar. 12,2002) "Encouraging Women Terrorists" by Itamar Marcus accessed 24/7/2008
  54. ^ accessed 23/7/2008
  55. ^ Marcus, Itamar; Zilberdik, Nan Jacques (13 February 2011). "UN asks PMW to publicize that UN was not behind Arab media campaign presenting terrorist as role model". Palestine Media Watch. Retrieved 15 February 2011. 
  56. ^ 32 Years Since Coast Road Attack - Defense/Middle East - News - Israel National News
  57. ^ Incitement is not one-sided - JPost - Opinion - Op-Eds
  58. ^ HDS Greenway, "Begin Hints Israel to Retaliate for Raid," Washington Post, 14 March 1978
  59. ^ Israel-Hizbullah prisoner exchange: profiles - Ian Black and Hugh McLeod - The Guardian
  60. ^ Israel-Hezbollah prisoner swap - Hugh McLeod - San Francisco Gate
  61. ^ Who’s who of the prisoner swap - Zahra Hankir and Sharad Venkat - NOW Lebanon
  62. ^ Encouraging Women Terrorists

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