TEL AVIV (May. 11)
Doctors at Tel Hashomer Hospital were pessimistic today over the chances of 22-year-old Miriam Holtzberg to recover from wounds she received during the gun battle that liberated a hijacked Sabena jet from Arab terrorists at Lydda Airport. Mrs. Holtzberg, an Israeli married to a Belgian, was rushed to the hospital where she underwent surgery for eye and head wounds. She remains on the critical list. A member of Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot (Ghetto Fighters) she was returning to Israel to visit her parents. During the hectic rescue operations, and before her passport was found, Mrs. Holtzberg was identified as Meri Colberg.
Two other injured passengers and a girl terrorist wounded in the gun fight were reported to be improving. One passenger, 55-year-old Wilfred Kordovsk, a German citizen, was injured in the stomach. Mrs. Paula Rubin, 50, of Antwerp, hurt her ear. Theresa Halsa, 20, one of the two terrorists to survive, was reported in satisfactory condition following surgery to repair a severed blood vessel. It was disclosed today that two Israeli soldiers sustained minor injuries and were discharged from the hospital after treatment.
Israeli sources disclosed today that the government intends to press all airlines flying to Israel to tighten their security measures. The Sabena jet was hijacked after taking off from Vienna on the last leg of a Brussels-Tel Aviv flight. It carried no security guard and the terrorists eluded airport security checks. It was not known whether they boarded the plane at Brussels or Vienna.
The fact that the terrorists were able to carry a reported 12 kilos of explosives, hand grenades and revolvers aboard the plane without detection shows that the security measures of certain airlines and at certain airports are grossly inadequate, the sources said. The sources warned, however, that “the game is not over. The terrorists lost this time, but they may not consider themselves beaten.”
CAPTURED TERRORIST COOPERATING WITH AUTHORITIES
Passengers arriving on a Sabena flight from Brussels and Frankfurt yesterday reported that security checks in both those cities were tight but were lax at Vienna where the plane stopped over. A TWA jumbo jet that took off from Lydda Airport this morning, was turned back after an anonymous telephone caller claimed a bomb was planted aboard. A search revealed nothing. El Al and BOAC jets at the airport were inspected as a precautionary measure but nothing was found.
It was learned today that 25-year-old Rima Eisa, the only terrorist unhurt in yesterday’s gun fight, is cooperating with Israeli authorities in their investigation of the hijacking. Miss Eisa, of Bethlehem, reportedly told police that the slain hijack leader was Ahmad Awad Missa, the same man who hijacked an El Al jet to Algeria on July 23, 1968.
The military attorney general was reported today to be preparing cases against Miss Eisa and her companion, Theresa Halsa, an Acre-born nurse. The two are expected to be tried before a military tribunal as soon as Miss Halsa recovers from her wounds.
An Army source revealed today that the ruse that liberated the Sabena jet was not devised at the spur of the moment but was the result of preparations that Israel’s armed forces have been making for a long time to deal with hijack situations of all kinds.
Meanwhile, Capt. Reginald Levy, pilot of the hijacked jet, was back in Brussels today, profuse in his praise of Israeli authorities for the way they foiled the hijackers. Before he left Israel yesterday, Capt. Levy visited the Western Wall “to thank the good Lord for my miraculous escape.”