Sinking Eilat destroyer – 50 years on

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Tue, 29 May 2018 - 01:43 GMT

INS Eilat - Wikimedia commons creation

INS Eilat - Wikimedia commons creation

CAIRO – 29 May 2018: Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi decreed issuing a commemorative Golden Jubilee medal for the Egyptian naval forces on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the sinking of Israeli Eilat destroyer.

The medal will be awarded to all members of the naval forces in service until October 21, 2017. The presidential decree no. 236/2018 was published in the Gazette.

Eilat, built in 1944, was originally serving in the British Royal Navy under the name of HMS ZEALOUS during the Second World War, participating in operations in the North Sea and off the Norwegian coast, before taking part in some of the Arctic convoys. It was sold to the Israeli Navy and participated in the Suez Crisis in 1956, attacking Egyptian ships and was still active by the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967.

In July 1967, the Eilat along with two motor torpedo boats (MTBs) encountered two Egyptian torpedo boats during one of its patrols off the northern Sinai shore. Giving chase, Eilat eventually sank both boats with the loss of all hands – but the chase took them into Egyptian waters. While celebrated in Israel, it was roundly condemned in Egypt, which began planning a suitable response.  

Only three months after this incident, Eilat was sunk. on October 21, 1967, an Egyptian Komar-class missile boat positioned within the harbor at Port Said fired two missiles at the Israeli destroyer. Eilat's radar did not reveal any suspicious activity or movements because the Egyptians launched the missiles from within the port. Eilat's captain ordered evasive action when the missiles were detected, but the first missile hit the ship just above the waterline. Two minutes later the second missile struck, causing additional casualties.

ِِAround an hour later another Egyptian Komar-class missile boat from Port Said harbor fired two more Styx missiles at Eilat. The third missile hit Eilat amidships, causing more damage and further fires, while the fourth went astray and crashed in the water nearby. Eilat sank about two minutes later. Out of a crew of 199 members, 47 were killed and more than a hundred were wounded.

This made Eilat the first vessel to be sunk by a missile boat in wartime. It was an important milestone in naval surface warfare.

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