JERUSALEM (Dec. 28)
Four gunmen of the Black September movement who seized the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok today reportedly agreed to release their six Israeli hostages in return for safe conduct out of Thailand. According to the latest report from Bangkok the agreement was announced by Thailand’s Air Chief Marshal Dawee Chulasapya who reportedly will accompany the gunmen out of the country along with Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Chartchai Chunahawan and the Egyptian Ambassador. Mustaffa El Tawi. The actual release of the hostages was not confirmed by late afternoon.
The reports said that the Egyptian envoy. played a key role in the incident by speaking to the terrorists on the telephone, urging them to accept the Thai offer of safe conduct. According to reports still unconfirmed by Israeli officials, the gunmen will be flown to Cairo by a Scandinavian Airlines plane. One report said they will be allowed to retain their weapons.
(The U.S. State Department in Washington disclaimed any direct involvement in the efforts to secure the release of the Israeli hostages. State Department spokesman Charles Bray said today that the American role was limited to assisting communications between Jerusalem and Bangkok. He said that in view of the restricted U.S. role in the incident, the State Department deemed it inappropriate to comment further at this time.)
Israeli authorities identified the hostages as Shimon Azimor, the Israeli Ambassador to Cambodia who was visiting the Bangkok Embassy when it was seized; the Embassy First Secretary Nissan Hadass and his wife; Attache Dan Beeri and his wife; and Pinhas Lavie, an administrative officer.
The gunmen demanded the release of 36 terrorists jailed in Israel, among them Kozo Okamoto, the survivor of a trio of Japanese gunmen responsible for the Lod Airport massacre May 30. They also demanded return of the bodies of two Arab terrorists killed in the attempted hijack of a Sabena jet at Lod Airport May 9. The gunmen set a deadline of 8 a.m. Friday, Thai time (8 p.m. today, New York time) for the release of the prisoners. They said if the deadline was not met they would kill the hostages and blow up the embassy.
NO ONE STOPPED GUNMEN FROM ENTERING
The Cabinet met in emergency session at Premier Golda Meir’s Tel Aviv office at noon today. The meeting lasted less than an hour. A brief statement issued said only that “At today’s special Cabinet session a report on the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok was given.” No information on any related action by Israel was released. It was believed that to decisions were adopted at the meeting. None of the minister made any statements except Minister of Commerce and industry Haim Bar Lev who would say only. “It’s very grave.”
According to reports from Bangkok this morning the Israeli Ambassador to Thailand, Rehavam Amir, was absent from the Embassy when the four gunmen seized the premises. Two of the gunmen reportedly entered by the front door wearing black ties and tails, garb normally associated with formal diplomatic functions, and carrying concealed weapons. Two others in jackets and bullet-proof vests, carrying submachine guns, reportedly scaled the walls of the Embassy compound.
Amir was at Parliament House with the rest of the diplomatic corps attending the investiture of the Crown Prince of Thailand. He and Thai Premier Thanon Kittikachorn were informed of the Embassy seizure during the ceremonies.
About 300 Thai police surrounded the Embassy compound. Gen. Prapass Charusathira. Deputy Premier and Commander of the Thai Army, was quoted as saying that Thailand would not make “any rash movements to endanger the lives of the hostages.” The terrorists hung a green, white and red Palestinian flag from an upstairs window of the Embassy and tossed out a note listing their demands. The note said they didn’t want to harm the Israeli hostages but “If the demands are rejected we would be free to treat the staff in the same manner of murder it treats our people.”
ISRAELIS CRITICAL OF SECURITY MEASURES
The seizure of the Bangkok Embassy has already sparked bitter criticism here of the Foreign Ministry and Israel’s security services. The critics demanded to know how four armed terrorists were able to enter the premises unhindered, especially in view of events since the Lod Airport massacre and the Munich slayings of 11 Israeli athletes. They asked where the security guards were and what happened to the stringent security measures which the Foreign Ministry says it ordered all Israeli missions abroad to observe.
Political observers said the terrorists selected the Bangkok Embassy as their target, apparently to try to upset the improving relations between Israel and several Southeast Asian nations which have traditionally avoided involvement in the Middle East conflict. South Vietnam has recently established diplomatic relations with Israel and Cambodia has opened an Embassy in Jerusalem. Israel is about to open a Consulate in Hong Kong and Jerusalem’s relations with Thailand have been growing steadily closer.
The Foreign Ministry released the following information on the hostages: Nissan Hadass, 35, the First Secretary, holds a masters degree in history from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and entered the foreign service in 1961. He served in Sierra Leone and Germany before going to Thailand last Aug. His wife Ruth, 30, was born in Indonesia, lived in Holland and came to Israel in 1945. They were married in 1961 and have a daughter, born this year.
Pinhas Lavie, 37, head of the Embassy’s consular section, was born in Germany and came to Israel at the age of three. He was sent to Bangkok in 1970. Lavie is married and the father of two daughters and a son. Dan Beori. 25, was born in Rahovoth and was a member of Kibbutz Kfar Hahoresh. He was sent to Bangkok as an attache in 1972. His wife Sara, 26, was born in Israel and lived at Kibbutz Ashdod Yaacov.