Israel protests US Navy ban on Haifa visits
- The Times (UK)
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 01 2001
Israel attacks US warship ban
FROM ROSS DUNN IN JERUSALEM AND MICHAEL EVANS, DEFENCE EDITOR
ISRAEL criticised America yesterday for banning warships of the US Sixth
Fleet from docking at Haifa because of fears of a terrorist attack.
Uzi Landau, the Israeli Internal Security Minister, complained that the ban,
imposed after the bomb attack on the USS Cole in Yemen last year which
killed 17 American sailors and injured 39 others, sent a signal of
�weakness� to Islamic militants.
�When Americans stop visiting Israel . . . the message to the terrorists in
the Middle East is that the United States is afraid, that the United States
is retreating under pressure from terrorism,� he said.
Israeli officials said that the US had imposed a general ban on the
Mediterranean-based Sixth Fleet docking in the Middle East. Mr Landau said
that an exception should have been made in Israel�s case.
He said that it was wrong to compare an Israeli port with those in Yemen.
�Aden is a hotbed of terrorism, without even one corner that is warm and
friendly to the United States, but Haifa is a pleasant place for the
American sailors to visit,� Mr Landau said.
Before the ban, which followed a security review after the attack on USS
Cole last October, 30 to 40 US warships visited Haifa every year, bringing
up to 70,000 Service personnel into the port. Each day a US aircraft carrier
spent in Haifa was said to put $1 million into the local economy.
Mr Landau said that the US had also suspended joint military exercises with
the Israeli Army.
A spokesman for the US Navy in London confirmed that no American warship had
visited Haifa since the attack on USS Cole.
He said that the US Navy constantly assessed security at all ports that were
visited by American warships. �If the risk is considered to be too high,
then ship visits are not allowed,� the spokesman said.
The Israeli complaints were made yesterday as a Pentagon official confirmed
that a crew member of an American Awacs surveillance aircraft had reported
seeing an Iraqi surface-to-air missile as the plane was flying in Saudi
airspace. Although the sighting has not been corroborated by other American
pilots, it is the second report in less than two weeks of Iraqi Sam missiles
being fired at American aircraft in the airspace of countries bordering
A similar incident was reported on July 19 when the Pentagon said that an
American E2C Hawkeye surveillance aircraft was targeted by an Iraqi Sam
missile. It exploded near by but there was no damage to the aircraft.
The threat from terrorism to US interests is now being taken so seriously by
Washington that there are moves to give the CIA an added role of
counter-terrorism within America itself. The CIA�s operations are normally
focused on overseas intelligence-gathering but under a review ordered by
President Bush, George Tenet, the CIA Director, has been given a broad
mandate to explore new techniques and practices, and a domestic role for the
spy agency may be one of the outcomes.
A senior intelligence official familiar with the review said in Washington:
�We know that increasingly we�re going to be a target in this country, and
we also know that intelligence is going to have a role to play in trying to
protect the homeland, protect the continental US.�
The security review was ordered after criticism that the US Navy had been
less than vigilant in anticipating a possible attack. Ports used regularly
by the Navy in the Middle East, including Haifa, were examined as possible
locations for attacks by terrorists.
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