JERUSALEM (Sep. 1)
Israel renewed its demand today for the release by Syria of all Israeli citizens who were passengers aboard the TWA airliner hijacked by Arab commandos last Friday and forced to land in Damascus. Four of the Israelis, all women, were released today, flown to Athens aboard an Alitalia airliner, and brought here in a TWA airliner. But two Israeli men are still being held by Syrian authorities.
Israeli Government officials said today there would be no “bargaining” with Syria for release of the Israelis in exchange for two Syrian jet pilots who landed in Israel a year ago or for captured Arab guerrillas. The men as well as the women must be unconditionally released, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said last night. The release of the women did not “detract from the seriousness of the crime.” he said.
ISRAELI DEMANDS ARE DIRECTED TO TWA AND UNITED STATES
Foreign Ministry officials said today that Israel’s demand for action to secure the release of the two Israelis still held in Syria was directed “first and foremost” to TWA and the U.S. Government. They said the air carrier has not denied responsibility for its passengers’ safety and that the U.S., under whose flag the plane flew, has assured Israel that it would do all in its power to have the Israelis set free. But the Ministry officials said they had no reports that a “neutral body” (presumably the United Nations) was doing anything regarding the well being and safety of the Israeli citizens in Damascus.
(In Washington, Israeli Embassy officials disclosed that contacts were continuing today, with the State Department, Trans-World Airlines and international bodies in efforts to secure the release of the two Israelis still held by the Syrian authorities.)
The two men, apparently being held as hostages, are Prof. Shmuel Samueloff, 48, a member of the physiology department of Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, and Saleh Moualem, 42, of Ramat Hasharon, a travel agency employee, Israeli officials said today that proposals for an exchange had not been received from Syrian sources. But the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which carried out the hijacking, claimed that one of its purposes was to seize Israelis as hostages for captured Arabs. The Israeli official pointed out that the two men are in the custody of Syrian authorities, not of terrorists and that Syria will be held responsible for their safety and prompt return.
ISRAELI IRE SOFTENED BY TWA MOVES TO SECURE RELEASE OF DETAINED PASSENGERS
The four Israeli women arrived at Lydda Airport from Athens this afternoon in a TWA airliner and were given an emotional welcome by relatives and friends. They were taken to a waiting room reserved for VIP’s and talked to the press there. They had little information to add. They said the Syrians treated them well, they had enough food and generally had no complaints except for their detention.
The women passengers released are Mrs. Hava Fried, 42, of Kiryat Motzkin and her 15 year-old daughter, Dalia; Mrs. Victoria Shamash,61, and Mrs. Ardit Hana Arditi, 63. Mrs. Shamash and Mrs. Arditi were both returning from visits to relatives in Los Angeles where the TWA flight originated.
The Alitalia plane that took them from Damascus carried four TWA executives to the Syrian capital. They are F.C. Wiser, President of the airline, and vice-presidents Thomas Hungton, Richard Wilson and Gordon Gilmore. The plane’s pilot, Capt. Dean Carter, is also remaining in Damascus. Its crew and 99 non-Israeli passengers were evacuated on Saturday.
The arrival of the airline officials in Damascus did much to mollify Israeli public opinion which was angered by the fact that the crew and non-Israeli passengers were promptly evacuated, leaving the six Israelis to their fate. Originally, TWA announced that Capt. Carter would remain in the Syrian capital to supervise repairs to the aircraft which was damaged by time bombs planted by the commandos after it landed. The head of Israel’s Civil Aviation Administration, Moshe Peled. cabled TWA in New York Sunday expressing “shock” that the crew of the Boeing jet had left Damascus without the Israeli passengers. Shortly afterwards, TWA announced that Capt. Carter had been ordered to remain in Damascus to “expedite the release of six Israelis” as soon as possible. The airline said it had assigned “top priority” to obtaining their release.
(John Corris, director of public relations for TWA in Washington, told JTA today that “TWA, at this time, has no plans whatsoever to change its pattern of scheduled service to Tel Aviv.”)