New York (Oct. 21)
The wives of two Israelis detained in Syria since the Aug. 29 hijacking of their Trans World Airlines jet continued today to try to create United States public pressure for their husbands’ release. Mrs. Shlomo Samueloff and Mrs. Saleh Muallem met with Mayor John V. Lindsay and with F.C. Weiser, president of TWA whose plane was taken to Syria by two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The two women met yesterday with United Nations Secretary General U Thant and Miss Angle Brooks of Liberia, president of the General Assembly.
Mayor Lindsay, after meeting with Mrs. Samueloff and Mrs. Muallem for 10 minutes, issued the following statement: “I am completely in sympathy” with them. “Every consideration of humanity and civility requires that the UN take forthright action to insure that their husbands will be returned to their homeland and families immediately.”
A TWA spokesman refused to disclose the nature of the conversation between the women and Mr. Weiser, saying it was “privileged.” He indicated, however, that TWA is continuing to “do all it can on the scene” in Damascus to effect the release of the Israelis. He indicated that two top ranking TWA officials are there, including Richard Wilson, vice president of the company’s European region. TWA is also continuing to work with other international aviation bodies, he said.
Meeting newsmen after the UN appointments under the auspices of the Israel Mission to the UN, the women said that they had been assured by Mr. Thant that he would continue his efforts to free the men. Miss Brooks has sent a personal appeal on their behalf to Syria’s President Nureddin al-Atassi but so far has received no reply.
Israel has rejected a Syrian offer to free the men if two captured Syrian pilots were released. claiming that a bad precedent would be set if two illegally detained civilians were traded for military prisoners held legitimately under international law. Mrs. Samueloff, asked if she favored such a trade, replied, “We want our husbands back, but you cannot buy off a thief.”
In a related development, Rabbi Israel Miller, chairman of the American Zionist Council, sent a telegram to Secretary of State William P. Rogers urging him to “renew the strongest efforts” to effect the Israelis’ release. “The failure of the Syrian Government to release these men is an action of callous disregard of human rights, inflicting needless punishment on innocent citizens,” the wire said.