In March 1948 the security situation - later dubbed the “March Crisis” - of the "Yishuv" (the Jewish community in Eretz Israel/Palestine) was at all time low.
During that month it looked as if the arms procurement mission in the USA and Canada had failed, and the first shipment that was to have come from Czechoslovakia in February
had not yet arrived.
At this stage, when not every soldier did yet have a gun, Ben-Gurion appointed Shaul Avigur (Meirov) – the head of
Ha’Mossad Le’Aliya Bet - as the head of the arms procurement mission in Europe.
Towards the end of March Shaul received a report of an Italian vessel named Lino that carried 8,000 rifles
and ammunition from Yoguslavia to Beirut. The shipment was formally Syrian, but
was intended for the Palestinians.
Shaul ordered that this vessel be intercepted or sunk. An opportunity to sink the Lino came when it entered a small port near the port of Bari, Italy, for necessary repairs.
Ada Sireni – the head of the Italian branch of Ha’Mossad Le’Aliya Bet – used her exceptional ties with high ranks in the Italian Navy to stall the vessel in
the port of Bari so that a
sabotage operation to sink it could be arranged.
The operation was carried out by a small Palyam team of three – the saboteurs Yossa’le Dror and Benni Kravitz, with
operating the boat that took them close to the target. Yossa’le applied his rich experience from his service in Ha’Chulya – the legendary underwater sabotage squad of the Palyam -
and prepared the explosive device. On Apr. 10, 1948, the three succeeded to sink the Lino and to escape without a trace.
The Arabs didn’t give up on the rifles. With help from the Italians they pulled the crates with the riffles inside them out of the water and prepared to ship them again,
this time via Egypt using a vessel named Argiro. The Argiro became the new target and the planning of “Mivtza Shoded” (“Pirate Operation”) started.
Click here for the story of this amazing operation.
The sunk Lino in Bari, Italy
The plan to sink the Lino