JERUSALEM (Aug. 28)
Authoritative sources here confirmed today that Israel has promised to make a “humanitarian gesture” when the hijacked El Al airliner and its 12 Israeli passengers and crewmen, held in Algeria since July 23, are returned safely to Israel. Reports of such a “gesture,” generally believed to mean the release of certain Arab prisoners held in Israel, have been circulating here for several weeks. In the past they have been denied in official quarters.
The matter of the hijacked plane was mentioned by Ambassador Yosef Tekoah, Israel’s chief representative to the United Nations, when he arrived at Lydda Airport today for two weeks of consultations in connection with the forthcoming fall session of the General Assembly. Mr. Tekoah expressed appreciation for the efforts of UN Secretary-General U Thant to secure the release of the plane from Algeria. He said that in New York he had talked to Mr. Thant’s special envoy to Algeria, undersecretary-general Jose Rolz-Bennett, of Guatemala, but gave no details of the conversation.
Israel’s UN envoy also told newsmen that the lesson of the invasion of Czechoslovakia is that small countries, like Czechoslovakia and Israel, must not rely on promises and “paper guarantees,” The only means Israel has to protect itself is its own strength, Mr, Tekoah said. According to an unconfirmed report from London, Italian pilots have gone to Algeria to fly the El Al jet out.