WASHINGTON (Jul. 31)
The United States, Britain and France protested to Bulgaria this weekend against the shooting down of the EI AI Constellation plane last Wednesday, denounced the affair as brutal and demanded payment of compensation to the families of victims who were their nationals. The Canadian and South African Governments are reported preparing to take similar action.
The American protest, in the form of an aide memoir sent through Swiss diplomatic officials who represent American interests in Sofia, with which Washington has no formal relations, called the incident, in which 58 persons perished, a “brutal attack” and a “grave violation” of international law. The American memorandum whose text was not made public pending its receipt in Sofia, brushed aside the assertion that the plane was off course and insisted that the basic question was why a peaceful ship was attacked. It demanded that the Bulgarian Government:
1. Take measures to guarantee against recurrence of such an incident, and inform the United States Government what action was taken; 2. Punish those responsible for the incident, and inform the U.S. of who was punished and how, and 3. Pay prompt and adequate compensation to the families of the American victims. Payment was demanded through the United States Government.
In London, the British Government announced it had sent a note directly to Sofia stating that it could not “accept that any government is in its right in shooting down a civil aircraft in a time of peace.” The note also demanded punishment of those responsible for the incident and reserved the right of compensation for the British, Canadian and South African lives lost in the crash. A report by a British vice-consul in Sofia who visited the scene of the crash was being studied at the Foreign Office.
The French Government, in a note sent to the Bulgarian Legation in Paris, expressed its indignation at the shooting down of the Israel plane. The attack was likened to an “act of war.” Among the crash victims was Miss Sarah Zait, private secretary to Yaacov Tsur, Israel Ambassador in France.
(An American unidentified civil plane with three Americans aboard, including the owner-pilot, flew over Israel air space today while on a flight between Cairo and Beirut. Two Israel fighters on patrol signalled the plane to land. After the ship and its occupants were identified they were allowed to proceed.)