Government Takes First Step to Pay Families of Libyan Airliner Disaster

The government took the first step today toward implementing its decision to pay the families of the victims of the Libyan airliner downing. Acting Premier Yigal Allon has requested Justice Minister Yaacov Shimshon Shapiro to suggest the composition and terms of reference of a ministerial committee which would establish criteria for the payments. The Justice Minister’s proposals are expected to be submitted to the Cabinet for approval at its next session.

Allon’s request was based on the Cabinet’s Feb. 25 resolution which expressed Israel’s readiness to make ex gratia (of free will) payments to the families of the 106 persons who lost their lives. The Cabinet made it clear that the offer stemmed entirely from humanitarian considerations.

A precedent was the payment made to Israel by Bulgaria after an El Al airliner that strayed into Bulgarian air space in 1955 was shot down by Bulgarian fighters, killing all 58 persons aboard, including 22 Israelis. The aircraft was shot down on a routine flight from Vienna to Lod Airport. Israel claimed $7,462,803 in damages for the disaster. The protracted negotiations over the question of compensation was finally concluded with the signing of an agreement by Bulgaria in 1963–eight years later–paying Israel a total of $195,000. The Bulgarian government had earlier settled most of the claims brought by families of the non-Israelis aboard the plane.

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