TEL AVIV (Sep. 1)
Premier Golda Meir declared Sunday night that “The Syrian Government was an accomplice in the hijacking of a TWA plane and the kidnapping of its passengers and must bear responsibility for these criminal acts.” Addressing an election rally at the Mann Auditorium, Mrs. Meir said the “sole ray of light” in the entire episode was “the firm stand of the United States Government in condemning the crime and its strong demand for the release of all passengers.” She said Israel was gratified to learn also that the captain of the hijacked plane and other representatives of the airline would remain in Damascus until the detained Israelis are released.
Mrs. Meir said the Syrian Government assumed the onus of the crime when it failed to release the passengers or to arrest the hijackers, Syria, she said, is not a terrorist organization but a sovereign member of the United Nations with an airline of its own and dependent upon international cooperation. “The Government of Syria should weigh its future steps well and should realize that it cannot do anything it likes,” she advised.
The hijacking was the top item on the agenda at the Sunday Cabinet meeting where Foreign Minister Abba Eban and Transport Minister Moshe Carmel presented reports. The Cabinet later issued a formal statement demanding the unconditional and immediate release of all detained Israeli citizens. The statement characterized the hijacking as “an act of air piracy endangering the safety and lives of scores of passengers, men, women and children, perpetrated by a band of Arab terrorists” who “violated international law, international conventions and the basic rules of human conduct.”
The statement said “The Government of Israel notes with satisfaction the statement of the United States Government and its continuing efforts to free the hijacked passengers. The Government of Israel expresses the hope that in the face of concerted international reaction, not only will the Israeli passengers be released forthwith but that irresponsible acts such as that perpetrated last Friday will cease.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry set up a special headquarters to deal with the hijack case. The Ministry’s director-general, Gideon Rafael, is in charge.