JERUSALEM (Dec. 29)
Semi-official sources said here today that an outraged world reaction to Israel’s commando raid on the Beirut Airport had been expected in Israel and taken into account. The view was expressed informally, as the Cabinet met to consider the agreement by the United States on the sale to Israel of 50 F-4 Phantom jets and the Beirut raid, that Israel was human, too, and that there were hostile acts Israel could not tolerate nor could Israel wait for the Big Powers to take action when they had demonstrated their “flagrant inability to do so.”
An official communique issued by the Foreign Ministry today expressed the hope that the Beirut raid would put an end to sabotage acts against Israeli aircraft and to attacks on their passengers in any part of the world. The statement added that the Beirut airport had been chosen because the Athens airport attackers had come from there and lived there and because Beirut was the headquarters of the organization that sent them to Athens.
(The two guerrillas, Mahmoud Mohamad, 25, a Palestinian Arab, and Maher Suleiman, 18, a Libyan, were formally charged in Athens yesterday in the machine gun and grenade attack on the airliner. Nikolaos Stylianakis, Director of Greek Prosecution, ruled they had until tomorrow to prepare testimony to their defense after consulting with attorneys. They were formally charged with the premedi- tated murder of Leon Shirdan, 50, the Israeli engineer, who was killed by four bullets which hit him in the attack. The charge involves punishment either of execution or life imprisonment. Other charges filed against the two guerrillas included attempted mass homicide, arson endangering human life, illegal possession, transport and use of arms and explosives, imperilling the safety of air traffic and damage to foreign property. The Times reported from Athens that the Lebanese Embassy there had asked the Greek Government to allow the two men to have lawyers hired by their organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and that the Greek Government had not replied immediately. After the hearing tomorrow, the case will be sent to the chief prosecutor who will make recommendations to a judicial council which will prepare and submit an indictment. Unless there is an appeal against the indictment, the trial could start in January.)
The Foreign Ministry communique reiterated that there was no basis for distinguishing between the terrorist organizations and the Arab states which armed, aided and abetted them. The statement asserted that the terrorists were merely the spearhead of an attack on Israel waged by all the neighboring countries.
(Among negative reactions reported today, in addition to the sharp U.S. State Department criticism, were statements from London, Warsaw, Moscow and Rome. The British Foreign Office said it “deplores all actions which tend to increase tension in the Middle East.” The Polish Government newspaper, Zycie Warszawy, called the Beirut Airport raid “gangsterism.” Tass, the Soviet news agency, described the raid as “another brazen provocation by the Israeli military.” Italian Foreign Minister Pietro Neni called the ambassadors of Israel and Lebanon to express Italy’s concern about the raid and about the guerrilla attack Thursday on the El Al plane in Athens.)