LONDON (Sep. 27)
The last 38 hijacked airline hostages, all from the United States, were on their way home today after being freed by the Arab terrorists who had held them captive since Sept. 6. Six of the 38 hostages were turned over to the Egyptian Embassy in Amman today by the guerrillas and taken to Cyprus. Some of the hijacked victims are scheduled to arrive at Kennedy Airport in New York tomorrow evening. Among those reported safe in Cyprus is Rabbi Isaac Hutner of Brooklyn, New York, and his son. Jacob. Rabbi Hutner is a leader of the Synagogue Council of America. According to all available reports no deal was made by any government for the release of Arab prisoners in exchange for those held by the terrorists. All the hostages were reportedly unharmed. Six hostages–eight Britons, six Swiss and two West Germans–were freed on Friday and arrived in London yesterday. They were liberated by Jordanian forces who attacked a guerrilla refugee camp near Amman where they were being held. Shortly afterwards, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine announced that all of the remaining hostages in its hands would be freed within the next 24 hours, Amman radio announced last night that 32 were freed. However, all 38 were reported today to have left Amman for Nicosia, Cyprus. All but one were passengers on TWA flight 741 which was hijacked shortly after it left Frankfurt, West Germany on Sept. 6 on a flight from Tel Aviv to New York. Most of the 38 are Jews and two of them, and possible a third, hold dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship.
It was uncertain today whether their release over the weekend stemmed from Hussein’s victory over the guerrillas or from pressure from other Arab governments and from the Palestine Liberation Organization, the terrorists’ umbrella body. It was apparent from the start that the mass hijackings and kidnappings did not sit well with most Arab governments or with El Fatah, the largest Palestinian guerrilla group. They feared, that such acts, which outraged world opinion, would only harm the Arab cause. Release of the last hostages ended one of the most bizarre episodes of the Middle East conflict. On Sept. 6. commandoes of the extremist PFLP hijacked one Swiss and two American jets, all on flights to New York and made an abortive attempt to hijack a New York-bound El A1 jet. In the latter aircraft, one of the commandoes was shot dead by an armed guard and his companion, a 24-year-old girl, Laila Khaled, was captured. But TWA flight 741 and a Swissair DC-8 were forced to land at a guerrilla controlled airstrip in northern Jordan. The third hijacked plane, a Pan American Jumbo Jet, was landed at Cairo and was blown up by the terrorists only moments after its passengers and crew scrambled to safety. The Pan American passengers were released immediately by Egyptian authorities and flown home. But the occupants of the TWA and Swissair planes began an ordeal that was to keep the entire world on edge for the next 20 days.