JERUSALEM (Sep. 7)
Yesterday’s triple hijack by Arab terrorists was the subject of high level discussions here today. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Israel was in contact with the governments whose planes were involved. Efforts were being made to check out terrorist claims that 50 Israeli nationals were among the 300 passengers aboard a TWA 707 and a Swissair DC-8 forced to land at Zerka, near Mafraq, in northern Jordan yesterday. The terrorists are holding the passengers and crews as hostages for Arab prisoners in Israel and Europe. (Late this afternoon, the terrorists issued a demand that the United States release Sirhan B. Sirhan who is facing execution in California for the assassination in 1968 of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Reports from Washington said Secretary of State William P. Rogers was conferring with other administration officials on this latest terrorist demand. California’s Governor Ronald Reagan assailed the demand for the Jordanian’s release.) The Ministry spokesman said the fate of the passengers and the aircraft rests with the Jordanian government. He said he hoped Jordan would abide by international law and release the passengers and planes without delay. (According to reports from London the terrorists issued a 72-hour ultimatum for their demands to be met and hinted that the hostages would be tortured.)
According to one source, there were 12 Israeli passengers aboard the TWA jet hijacked on a flight from Frankfurt to New York. Among them reportedly were a Rabbi Joseph Raful-Harari and his five children, Mrs. Tova Cohen and her two children and a Mrs. Goren with two children. Several Jews of U.S. nationality were said to have been on the plane. They were identified as a Mrs. Friedman and Rabbi Itzhak Hutner of the Haim Berlin Yeshiva in New York, his wife, daughter and son-in-law. Minister of Transport Shimon Peres said last night that Israel was demanding the extradition of Laila Khaled, the survivor of a hijack team that failed in an attempt to seize an E1 A1 airliner yesterday. Her male companion was shot and killed by an E1 A1 security guard and she suffered slight injuries in a scuffle with passengers. Miss Khaled was taken into custody when the plane made an emergency landing at London. Mr. Peres said the crime was committed aboard an Israeli aircraft and therefore technically on Israeli soil. (British authorities reportedly have the Israeli extradition demand under consideration. According to reports from London this morning, there was some inclination to release the girl in order to save the hostages in Jordan from terrorist reprisals. The guerrillas have demanded the return of Miss Khaled to Jordan along with the body of the slain hijacker.)
E1 A1 OFFICIAL ATTRIBUTES HIJACKINGS TO GREEK GOVERNMENT’S CAPITULATION TO TERRORISTS
Israel was apparently holding the Jordanian government fully responsible for the fate of the hostages and the aircraft. Officials pointed out that the landing strip at Zerka was Jordanian territory, though admittedly under control of terrorists who are backed by Iraqi troops at Mafraq where King Hussein’s authority is ignored. One official who asked not to be identified said, “I am pretty sure they would not kill the passengers and crew, and as for the planes, they are of much less importance than human lives.” A senior official of E1 A1 said today that the rash of hijackings was a direct result of the Greek government’s recent surrender to terrorist demands. He referred to the release in Athens last month of seven Arab terrorists who were serving jail terms for fatal attacks on an E1 A1 airliner and the E1 A1 office there. They were released following the hijacking of an Olympic Airways jet and terrorist threats to kill all of its passengers and crew.
(In Paris last night the vice president of the French Airline Pilots’ Association claimed that Israel’s seizure last month of two Algerian nationals from a British airliner at Lydda Airport was responsible for yesterday’s wave of hijackings. Comdt. Jacques Landragin, an Air France pilot, disclosed that he had cabled Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban urging the release of the Algerians last week and warning him that Arab commandos would retaliate. He said he never received a reply from Mr. Eban. “We have had a period of relative peace up to now, since the Arab governments had pledged not to receive hijackers,” the French pilot said. “But with the detention of the two Algerians last month the Arab commandos found a way to put the Arab governments in a very delicate position.” Comdt. Landragin implied criticism of the Israeli crew that foiled the hijacking of an E1 A1 airliner yesterday. “The Israeli crews have the same psychology as the Palestinians. For the rest of us, the safety of our passengers is paramount,” he said.) In addition to the two Algerians, Israel is holding several dozen Egyptian prisoners of war and some 2000 Palestinian guerrillas are serving time in Israeli jails. Last week Israel rescued the 24 man-crew of a burning Greek freighter, 14 of them Egyptian nationals who have been detained.