On October 7, 1985, four PLO members hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt.

The ship was on its way to Ashdod, Israel. The hijackers held the passengers and crew hostage, and demanded the release of 50 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. They threatened to blow up the ship if their demands were not met. On October 9, the hijackers surrendered to Egyptian authorities and freed the hostages. The plaintiffs are American citizens who were on the ship during the hijacking.