JERUSALEM (May. 23)
Israeli leaders voiced shock and outrage today over the murder by Turkish terrorists of Ephraim Elrom, Israel’s Consul General in Istanbul, who was kidnaped from his apartment last Monday. Elrom’s body was found yesterday with a bullet hole in his head, not far from the Consulate office. Premier Golda Meir denounced the murder today as “senseless.” She cabled a personal message of condolence to Elrom’s widow, Elsa, Mrs. Meir said: “Dearest Elsa, I have just heard the awful news. We wish we could comfort you but this is impossible. We are all with you in your terrible suffering.” Mrs. Meir left today for Helsinki, Finland, where she will open a debate on the Middle East at a meeting of the Socialist International Council. Acting Premier Yigal Allon said at today’s Cabinet meeting that Elrom’s kidnap-murder was the work of “base criminals devoid of conscience who did not recoil from taking the life of a defenseless, innocent person.” A leftist Turkish revolutionary group which styles itself the Turkish Peoples Liberation Army, claimed credit for the kidnaping. They demanded the release of all revolutionaries in Turkish custody in return for Elrom’s life.
Turkish authorities launched a nation-wide dragnet which rounded up scores of suspects but were unable to apprehend the kidnapers. The ransom deadline passed on Thursday with no word of Elrom’s fate. Reports from Istanbul on Friday suggested that a breakthrough was imminent. A 15 hour curfew and house-to-house search was ordered by the military commander in Istanbul. By then however, Elrom may already have been shot. Before departing for Helsinki Mrs. Meir said “I think a word of appreciation and thanks is due to the Turkish government” for its efforts to rescue Elrom. The kidnap-murder was viewed by Israelis as an act of sheer terrorism with no link to the Arab-Israel conflict although the Turkish terrorists are known to sympathize with the most extreme of the Palestinian guerrilla groups. President Zalman Shazar sent a message of condolence to Elrom’s widow. He said, “We are shocked by the awful news of this cruel crime. Our hearts are with you in your grief which is the grief of all of us.”
The Foreign Ministry and the Police have completed arrangements for Elrom’s funeral. A coffin bearing his remains is due to arrive at Lydda Airport later this evening aboard a Turkish military transport plane. Arriving aboard the plane will be the widow and her sister, accompanied by the Turkish chief of protocol and the Deputy Director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Moshe Sassoun who flew to Turkey last week. The plane will be met by Foreign Minister Abba Eban, Police Minister Shlomo Hillel and the chief military chaplain, Rabbi Shlomo Goren. Elrom’s remains will lie in state at the Tel Aviv section of the Foreign Ministry tomorrow where Eban and Hillel will deliver eulogies. The slain Israeli diplomat will be buried in the military section of the Kiryat Shaul cemetery near Tel Aviv.