JERUSALEM (May. 14)
Israeli officials today sharply rejected a complaint by the International Red Cross that it had been duped by the tactics Israel employed to liberate a hijacked Sabena Jet. The Red Cross issued two different versions of the complaint at its Geneva headquarters Friday, neither of which had reached Israel as of this morning, a Foreign Ministry spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The complaints accused Israel of having exploited the presence of Red Cross delegates at the airport when it employed a ruse to seize the aircraft from terrorist control by force. Although Israel’s official reply awaits receipt of the text of the complaint, statements this weekend by Foreign Minister Abba Eban and by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan made it clear that Israel categorically rejects the charges.
The Israeli ministers noted that the IRC representatives had been invited to the airport by the terrorists who were holding the passengers and crew members of the Belgian jet at gunpoint threatening to blow up the aircraft unless their demands were met. The IRC mission, they said, was solely to convey messages from the terrorists to Israeli authorities and the terrorists.
At no point did Israel promise the IRC representatives that it would not use force to liberate the plane. In fact, the ministers reported, the IRC men were told that force would be used if no other way could be found to save the lives of the hostages. The Red Cross statement said its representatives had been surprised when Israeli soldiers disguised as maintenance men boarded the plane and opened fire on the terrorists. The Israeli officials said that was understandable because the Red Cross was not at any stage a party to the planning of the military operation.
IRC BIASED IN FAVOR OF PALESTINIAN TERRORISTS
Dayan disclosed during a television appearance Friday night that the first thing the Red Cross representatives demanded when they arrived at the airport last Tuesday night was that Israel pull back the troops surrounding the hijacked jet. “I refused,” Dayan said. “When they said they could not function like that I told them: Listen, inside the plane there are terrorists with explosives, grenades and pistols and you are asking us to withdraw the Army as if this were a medical supply plane. That is impossible.”
Dayan said the IRC representatives contacted Geneva. Afterwards they asked him not to employ force as long as the IRC was operating in the area. “To this I again refused,” the Defense Minister said. “I gave a clear-cut negative reply. I added that we were aware of the extent of the danger to the passengers should we operate inside the aircraft and that unless it became essential we would not use force, But if a situation arose where it was considered absolutely essential we would use force even If you Red Cross people were Inside the plane, even If my daughter, my children, were inside,” Dayan said he told the IRC men.
Some Israeli officials expressed bitterness over the Red Cross role in last week’s incident and alleged that the IRC has consistently shown bias in favor of the Palestinian terrorists. They claimed that the IRC’s action did not spring from provisions of the Geneva Convention because the terrorists are not an internationally recognized resistance group.
The Israelis claimed that in previous hijacks instances abroad, the deals worked out through the IRC Invariably benefited the terrorists and that the Red Cross in fact seemed to be trying to accord the Palestinian terrorists an internationally recognized status and prestige which they do not deserve.