LONDON (Sep. 24)
Jordanian special forces made a house-to-house search of the crowded Wahdet refugee camp near Amman for evidence that the 54 hijack hostages had been taken there, as had been widely reported, and found nothing to indicate that any of the hostages had been in the camp, the London Telegraph reported today from Beirut. Meanwhile, according to the Beirut correspondent, a spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said in Beirut that the hostages were now in the “liberated northern Jordan” area, implying they had been moved from Amman to Irbid, which was captured by the commandos but is now reportedly under siege by the Jordanian army. An officer of the Palestine Liberation army, another guerrilla group, reportedly made a similar statement about the transfer of the hostages to Irbid, the Telegraph reported.
Information from Damascus believed to be reliable received here today indicated that the 54 hijacked hostages have been split into groups of Jews and non-Jews. According to the report, the Jews are in the Safiya refugee camp and the non-Jews were taken to the Nuseibeh refugee camp. Safiya was heavily shelled this week in the fighting between the Jordanian army and the guerrilla groups but there was no information reported about the effect of the fighting on that camp.
(In Washington. Sen. J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that the committee had been told at a private State Department briefing that the United States had learned indirectly that the hostages were in good health.) (The volunteers who have been manning a special desk in a Manhattan office of Trans World Airlines, which provides whatever information becomes available on the TWA passengers still being held hostage in Jordan, quickly developed “a rapport with relatives to the point that they know us by our first names,” Bill Hassell, TWA reservations chief, said today. The around-the-clock TWA “hijack desk” is staffed by personnel, who in the first days of the crisis, manned the telephones up to 16 hours a day, foregoing sleep, meals and days off. The reservations official said new information is passed on to the families of the hostages as fast as it becomes available and inaccurate or incomplete information in the press or on radio or television is corrected. Another agent said “We’ve become very close to each of the families involved. We assured them, informed them and, on occasion, cried with them.” Franklin J. Parisi. a TWA spokesman, reported today there had been no change in the break-off of contact between TWA headquarters in New York and the two TWA representatives who went to Amman. Forty of the 54 hostages still held by the Popular Front somewhere in Jordan were passengers on the hijacked TWA flight on Sept. 6 from Tel Aviv to New York.)
(The World Council of Churches has written to the Central Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization protesting the hijacking of aircraft and the taking of hostages and urging the committee to “negotiate with the International Red Cross the speedy repatriation of all hostages currently held, without respect to their religion and nationality.” The Council also requested the committee to “exercise the utmost care to maintain the health and safety of those now held.” The church group continued: “While understanding the frustration of the Palestinian Arabs and your desire to focus world attention on your situation, we must strongly condemn these reckless acts of anarchy and blackmail which disregard the basic human rights for which you are striving. We urge you to take note of the almost universal condemnation of these acts, which are most likely to lead to reprisals that will only cause further deterioration of the situation in the Middle East.”)