JERUSALEM (Aug. 26)
Algeria is expected shortly to release the hijacked Israeli airliner and its 12 passengers and crew members detained since July 23, it was indicated in official quarters here today. But there was no news of any specific developments and no one was prepared to say when the plane and its party would be freed. Estimates were that it could happen any time between the next 24 hours and the end of the week. The plane was pirated by Arab terrorists while flying from Rome to Tel Aviv. (Reportedly well informed circles in Paris said today that the plane and its passengers and crew would be released within the next few hours and that the airliner would be flown to Rome or Geneva. Rumors of the plane’s imminent release gained currency yesterday when a team of three Air France mechanics returned to Paris from Algiers where they prepared the $6 million Boeing 707 for flight.)
The evening daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported today that Israel had agreed to make a “humanitarian gesture” after the plane is released. The report was neither confirmed nor denied in official quarters. The paper recalled that the same sources had vigorously denied that any deal was in the making with Algeria when negotiations in Italy for the plane’s release broke down three weeks ago. Unofficial observers expect that soon after the plane is released, Israel will free a number of Arab terrorists. They said that the latter would be selected from among those held under administrative detention rather than those tried for a specific offense.