JERUSALEM (Oct. 29)
Israel was incensed today by the West German government’s failure to heed its entreaties not to free the three surviving Arab terrorists who participated in the massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich Sept. 5. The three terrorists were released from their jail cells and flown to Zagreb, Yugoslavia, to be exchanged for 13 passengers and seven crew members of a Lufthansa 727 jet that was hijacked by other Arab terrorists on a flight from Beirut to Ankara earlier today. One of the airline passengers was from New York. He was not immediately identified.
(According to reports from Munich, Chancellor Willy Brandt decided with his Cabinet’s approval to yield to the terrorists’ demand for a trade. The exchange took place tonight at Zagreb. The three terrorists and the hijackers were reported flying to an Arab country. Some news accounts reported that their destination was Tripoli, Libya. It was not immediately known whether the hijacked passengers and crew were released. According to some reports late today the crew and passengers had not been released. Yugoslav authorities reportedly refused at first to release the hijacked plane until all the hostages were freed, but later surrendered to terrorist demands. The hijackers were believed to have been members of the Black September movement.)
TERRIBLE ACT, NO ATONEMENT
Cabinet Secretary Yohanan Meroz told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that he assumed the West German government received Israel’s plea not to free the Munich terrorists before it decided to do so. Premier Golda Meir reported on the events at today’s Cabinet meeting as the hijacked plane shuttled between Munich and Zagreb without landing while negotiations were going on between the hijackers and West German authorities. She said Israel’s Ambassador in Bonn was instructed to contact the West German government at the highest level to present Israel’s appeal not to surrender to the hijackers’ demands.
The JTA learned that Israel’s plea was communicated through Ambassador Eliashiv Ben Horin in Bonn and through the West German Ambassador in Tel Aviv, Jesco Von Puttkammer. An official Israeli statement on the release of the terrorists was expected later tonight. Unofficially, Israeli sources said West Germany’s surrender to the terrorists was a grave development that would only encourage new terrorist outrages.
Israel Galili, a Minister-Without-Portfolio who often speaks for Premier Meir, said today that Bonn’s decision was a “terrible act for which there can be no atonement.” He said the surrender to the terrorists would have been bad enough elsewhere in the world but was infinitely worse in Germany where the Munich atrocity was committed.
PLANE SEIZED IN MID-FLIGHT
According to reports reaching here today, the Lufthansa jet was seized in the air by three terrorists while on the Beirut-Ankara leg of a flight to Frankfurt, West Germany. The plane also landed and apparently refueled at Nicosia, Cyprus. The hijacked aircraft made for Munich but the hijackers apparently decided that it was too risky to land there and ordered the plane headed for Zagreb. The plane reportedly continued to shuttle between the Yugoslavian and Bavarian cities until the West German authorities agreed to release the three terrorists captured in the Munich massacre.
The three were flown to Zagreb in what was described as a small business plane. They were captured during an abortive attempt by West German police to rescue 9 Israeli Olympic athletes kidnapped from the Olympic Village in Munich and held hostage. Two Israelis were murdered in the village. The 9 Israeli hostages, five terrorists and a West German policeman were slain in the shoot-out that took place at a Munich military airfield early Sept. 6.