NEW YORK (Dec. 4)
An estimated 3,000 persons, mostly high school and college students, created a traffic jam on New York’s upper East Side today as they marched with flashlights, Havdalah candles and torches to protest the continued detention by Syria of two Israelis who were passengers aboard a TWA airliner hijacked to Damascus last Aug. 29. The marchers, who assembled first at the Isaiah Wall opposite the United Nations, planned to demonstrate in front of the Syrian Mission to the UN on East 47th Street but police cordoned off the entire block. The march was peaceful and police did not interfere until the traffic tie-up reached such proportions that the youngsters had to be shunted into a side street.
The demonstration and march was organized by the Ad Hoc students Committee to Free the Damascus Two, a group that embraces Jewish and non-Jewish student organizations on campuses in the New York metropolitan area. A spokesman for the organization said that about 80 percent of the marchers were students and the rest adults.
Yesterday, 30 students of the Ad Hoc Committee staged a one-hour sit-in inside the Syrian UN Mission to demand the immediate release of Prof. Shlomo Samueloff and Sallah Muallem whose detention in Syria is now in its fourth month. The youngsters left peacefully after police were called and persuaded them to go. But Syria’s Ambassador to the UN, George Tomeh, denounced the sit-in as “gangsterism” and a “grave violation of international law.”
Mr. Tomeh said at a press conference yesterday that he had asked UN Secretary General U Thant to protest to the State Department through the American UN delegation. Reports from Damascus yesterday said that the Syrian government was demanding that UN headquarters be shifted from the U.S. to a “neutral” country because New York City is “the center of world Zionism.”