TEL AVIV (May. 10)
Two of the passengers rescued from the hijacked Sabena jet at Lydda Airport yesterday were seriously wounded in the gun battle that liberated the plane from Arab terrorists. The condition of one of them, Meri Colberg, 22, was described today as critical. She was hit in the head and eye by a bullet reportedly fired by a terrorist. Vilfred Kordovski, another passenger, suffered a severe stomach wound.
Paula and Nahum Rubin, an elderly couple from Antwerp, were slightly injured as they alighted from the aircraft after Israeli paratroopers disguised as repairmen gunned down two male terrorists and captured two women terrorists. One of the latter. Terez Halsa, an Acre-born nurse, was seriously wounded and underwent surgery last night at an Israeli hospital.
BELGIAN ENVOY PRAISES ISRAELI ACTION
The Belgian Ambassador to Israel, Frans Willems, sent a cable to Foreign Minister Abba Eban stating: “On behalf of all my countrymen and especially on behalf of the passengers and crew of the Sabena plane which was diverted from its path by the terrorists. I want to express my thanks and appreciation for the courageous and energetic action of the Israeli Army in putting an end to the suffering of the victims of this contemptuous act of air piracy.”
An eye-witness account of the 24-hour ordeal that ended in a blaze of gunfire was given today by Rafi Baram of Chicago who is the public relations representative in Israel for the United Jewish Appeal. Baram said that soon after the hijacking, Jewish passengers were sent to the rear of the plane. “When they (the terrorists) asked those who were not Jewish to identify themselves, a flock of hands went up real fast,” Baram claimed.
He also claimed that he was responsible for the capture of one of the women terrorists who held a hand grenade prepared to release the pin as the Israeli troopers stormed the plane. He said he grabbed and held the terrorist but a woman passenger pulled him away for fear the grenade would explode. Baram said that as a result of the struggle, the terrorist fell to the floor and was seized by an Israeli soldier before she could pick herself up.
ISRAEL, IRC COOPERATION DENIED
At a press conference today in Jerusalem. Transport Minister Shimon Peres denied terrorist charges that Belgian officials and the International Red Cross had cooperated with Israeli authorities in the ruse that resulted in wresting the jet from terrorist control.
Peres was replying to questions on charges broadcast last night over the Cairo-based El Fatah radio that the Red Cross had deliberately misled the hijackers and that the Belgians worked in collusion with the Israelis. Peres said the charge was totally unfounded and noted that the terrorist organization had no way of knowing what conversations transpired between Israeli officials and the Red Cross and Belgian representatives.
El Fatah radio warned that it would retaliate against Belgian interests. It claimed that the hijack was in fact a terrorist “victory” inasmuch as it forced Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to spend 24 hours at the airport. El Fatah alleged that several Israeli soldiers were either killed or wounded in the gun fight. It identified the hijackers as Maj. Ahmed Awad and Lt. Abdul Aziz, both killed; Theresa Ishal Khalsa, wounded and Rima Issa.