GENEVA (May. 14)
The International Red Cross Committee, in what Its own spokesman labeled “a highly exceptional move,” decided today to lodge a formal protest with the Israeli government against the use of armed force to liberate 100 hostages aboard the hijacked Sabena Jet. The IRC spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the move was prompted by what he termed. “Israel’s flagrant abuse of confidence” and “break of an oral agreement.” (See P. 3 for Israel’s reaction.)
The spokesman sharply rejected the JTA reporter’s suggestion that there might have been a misunderstanding. “We had 100 percent reason to believe that force would not be used while negotiations were still in progress and were on the point of succeeding,” the spokesman said. He claimed that Israeli authorities whom he did not name, had assured the Red Cross representatives at Lydda Airport that force was not contemplated. Unofficial circles here said the authority was Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan.
IRC NEUTRALITY AT STAKE
They claimed that the IRC delegates and Dayan had reached an oral agreement providing for the release of 300 Arab terrorists Jailed in Israel in exchange for the hostages and the plane. Less than three hours after the agreement was reached, they said, Israeli soldiers disguised as maintenance men, boarded the plane and opened fire on the terrorists. The circles claimed the terrorists agreed to allow maintenance men aboard to recharge the plane’s batteries and bring food and water to the passengers. That process was part of “a definite and steadfast undertaking given by Israeli military authorities to the Red Cross delegates,” they alleged.
The IRC rarely takes a foreign government publicly to task and usually prefers to act in a more discreet manner, circles here said. Its decision to protest formally to Israel stems from what the IRC considers an open breach of an agreement which, if permitted to go unchecked, would spell the end of the Red Cross’ influence and neutrality, IRC circles said.