TEL AVIV (Feb. 11)
“An act of cowardice perpetrated by people who are incapable of fighting on or within the frontiers of Israel.” These bitter words from Gen. Ezer Weizman, Minister of Transport, summed up Israeli reaction today to yesterday’s Arab terrorist attack on El Al passengers at Munich Airport which took the life of a 32-year-old engineer from Haifa and injured 23 other persons, four of them seriously. The West German Government announced that it “most emphatically condemns this Arab terrorism,” the third fatal attack on El Al at foreign airports since 1968.
(Police in Munich named an eight-man committee to investigate the attack. The Bavarian State Government expressed its deepest regrets over the outrage to Israeli Ambassador, Eliashev Ben Horin.)
The three Arab terrorists–two of them wounded–are in custody but have reportedly refused to answer questions. They were identified by police as Mohammed Hadidi and Mohammed Hanasi, both Jordanians and Abdul Rachman, an Egyptian.
Israeli newspapers today demanded retaliatory strikes at Damascus because Syria was reputedly the home base of the terrorists. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the attack should “re-awaken governments and international bodies to put an end to criminal lawlessness by taking all necessary steps to insure freedom of civil air travel.” But Gen. Weizman, a former Air Force commander who joined the Cabinet last year, said he didn’t put much faith in international measures. “There is no harm in going through the motions, but I doubt if anything will come of it. We have to defend ourselves,” he said.
HAIFA ENGINEER KILLED; ISRAELI ACTRESS, HANNA MARON, REMAINS IN CRITICAL CONDITION
Munich police reported that the Arab terrorists hurled hand grenades and fired submachine guns at a bus carrying passengers from the Munich Airport terminal to an El Al Boeing 707 jet that was preparing to take off for London. Arye Katzenstein, a refrigeration engineer from Haifa, was killed. His father, Heinz, 57, was among the wounded passengers. Also wounded and in critical condition in a Munich hospital was Hanna Maron, 46, a popular Israeli stage and screen actress. Twenty-four year-old Asaff Dayan, the actor son of Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, was a passenger on the bus. He was unhurt.
Some reports from Munich said that he was the target of the terrorists. But other sources said that yesterday’s attack, like the two previous ones, was indiscriminate and intended to inflict casualties at random on passengers and crew members of El Al. Capt. Uriel Cohen, commander of the flight, was slightly wounded. According to eye-witness accounts he wrestled a grenade wielding Arab to the ground while the others were firing on the bus. Mrs. Miriam Katzenstein, mother of the El Al passenger slain in Munich, flew there today with her son, Benjamin. Also headed for Munich was Mrs. Angelica Cohen, wife of the wounded pilot and the husband of Miss Maron, Jacob Rechter, an architect. He was accompanied by a surgeon from Tel Aviv’s Beilinson Hospital.
Israelis registered some surprise when credit for the attack was claimed by the Democratic Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an obscure Marxist group based in Syria. While supporting Palestinian guerrillas, that group in the past has repudiated individual acts of terrorism. A rival claim was made today by the so-called Action Organization for the Liberation of Palestine in Amman, Jordan. Israelis observed that whenever a new terrorist outrage is perpetrated, several guerrilla groups scramble for the credit. On Dec. 26, 1968, an El Al airliner was attacked by Arab terrorists at Athens Airport. One passenger, an Israeli marine engineer, was killed and a stewardess was injured. On Feb. 18, 1969, Arab attackers machine gunned an El Al plane at Zurich Airport, fatally wounding an Israeli pilot trainee. El Al said today that its flights were unaffected by the tragedy at Munich and that there were no cancellations as a result of it.