In April 1948, a Palyam team sank the vessel Lino which was carrying 8,000
rifles and ammunition from Czechoslovakia to Syria (the rifles were actually intended for the Palestinians).
The Syrians did not give up. They retrieved the weapons from the sea, cleaned them and readied them for reshipment. At this stage, the leaders of three-month-old Israel
decided that these weapons would be of good use for us. At first it was decided that a team of Israelis in disguise would infiltrate the Syrian team and commandeer the vessel from the inside.
There were difficulties that arose in carrying out that task so instead, two Italians mechanics
that were on our side were able to join the crew and be counted upon to carry out our instructions.
This sounds like some James Bond adventure; the idea was that once the vessel was out at sea these two machinists would find some reason to shut the engines down for a short time or
cause the vessel to sail at slow speed for some time. Meanwhile, a small fishing boat would approach the
vessel and two supposedly Italian naval officers would board the vessel and commandeer it.
Two veteran Palyamniks were chosen for this job: Oved Sadeh and David "Dudale" Ben-Chorin.
On the other end of the line, a Syrian officer, Mardam Bey
– a relative of the Syrian Prime Minister, was responsible for contact with the
vessel. He was responsible for having a vessel
named Argiro loaded with 8,000 rifles and two million bullets, and this vessel sailed eastwards in about mid August, 1948.
Dudale Ben-Chorin & Oved Sadeh - The two pirates
From this point onward the operation, dubbed “The Pirate”, went into action. This was one of the most amazing and clever operations that were executed during the War of Independence.
Sadeh and Ben-Chorin, in their small craft, approached the Argiro which had slowed down for some minor repair, as arranged with the two Italian mechanics.
They boarded the Argiro dressed in the uniforms of Italian naval officers and appeared before the vessel’s captain and told him that they had been sent by the Italian Government
to take command of the ship. The captain and his whole crew accepted what they were told and gave them command of the vessel. If the captain and his men had had any doubts about
the veracity of these two officers because of the poor quality of their Italian, this was cleared up two days later when the
two officers admitted that they were actually... Egyptians, who were sent
to the vessel because they were capable of navigating it through the Eastern Mediterranean
which was dotted with many mines from World War II. Every once in a while the two would give the captain some
phony report of what the Syrians had supposedly communicated to the vessel. The communication was of course with Israeli headquarters in Rome and in Israel.
The Syrians felt that they had lost contact with the vessel but did not know why, nor did they know where the
vessel was. In Israel there was much excitement about the arrival of the vessel and discussion about how to conclude the episode. The decision finally made was that two corvettes of the new Israeli
Navy, the K-18 and K-20, would meet the Argiro at a rendezvous off Crete. There they were to
intercept the Argiro and take the Italian crew into custody, pretending to
detain the "Egyptian" officers as well.
All went according to plan and all the weapons and ammunition were transferred to these two corvettes, as were the Italian crew and the “Egyptian” officers Oved and Dudale. The
Argiro had completed its role, so it was sunk by one of the corvettes. The weapons and ammunition reached Haifa and were quickly transferred to
soldiers in the front. They fulfilled a very important, perhaps vital role, in the ongoing War of Independence.
What was the Syrian reaction to this event? Find the guilty individual! Mardam Bey was accused of
a betrayal of his country. The Syrian press reported that he had been seduced by a beautiful Jewish-Czech woman who had convinced him to hand over the cargo of the
Argiro to the Israelis...
Argiro at sea along side one of the two Israeli corvettes