WASHINGTON (Sep. 28)
Trans-World Airlines announced Friday that it will send two of its executives to Damascus to “strengthen its representation” in efforts to secure the release of two Israeli nationals held by Syrian authorities since their TWA airliner was hijacked by Arab commandos on Aug. 29. The executives are Richard W. Wilson, vice president for international operations, and John L. Gaiser, a specialist in Middle East aviation. They will replace Capt. Dean Carter, pilot of the hijacked plane, who has been in Damascus since he was forced at gunpoint to land his Boeing 707 jet there.
A TWA spokesman said that the focus of the hijacking has moved “from one of operational to one of diplomatic concern.” The TWA jet was badly damaged by a bomb detonated in its cockpit after its passengers and crew were evacuated. Of the 102 passengers and crew aboard at the time of the hijacking, all were permitted to leave Damascus except for six Israeli citizens. Subsequently, four Israelis, all women, were released. But Syria is still detaining two men, Prof. Shlomo Samueloff, of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, and Sallah Moualem, a travel agency employee.
TWA had announced earlier that Capt. Carter would remain in Damascus until all of the Israeli passengers were released. TWA said Friday that “one or the other” of its two officials would stay in Damascus until the matter is settled. TWA, along with the U.S. Government and several international organizations, has been involved in behind-the-scenes efforts to secure the release of the Israelis.
Fifty-eight members of the House of Representatives joined 43 Senators over the weekend in urging the United Nations Security Council to investigate the hijacking and Syria’s failure to release the Israelis. The members of both houses asked Secretary of State William P. Rogers to bring the matter up before the Council. Their letter to Mr. Rogers termed the hijacking “criminal” and “wanton” and demanded punishment for the persons responsible for it. Israel’s Premier, Golda Meir, said in a speech to the National Press Club Friday that she hoped the Syrians “will come to their senses and let these men go home.” She called Syrian authorities “accomplices to the crime.”