TEL AVIV (Aug. 6)
Communications Minister Shimon Peres said today that the leniency shown by some countries to Arab terrorists led to yesterday’s attack in the Athens International Airport in which three persons were killed and 55 injured. He said every country must make an energetic effort to “behead this dangerous snake of terrorism.”
(At the United Nations, the Ad Hoc Committee on International Terrorism met today in a closed session to examine the meaning and causes of international terrorism, but did not mention yesterday’s tragedy. A few weeks ago, when Arab terrorists hijacked a Japan Air Line jumbo jet, the committee then holding its general debate also made no direct comment on the matter.)
(In New York, the Jewish Defense League announced that it will conduct an all-night vigil beginning at 10 p.m. tonight in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza to mourn the victims of the terrorist attack at Athens International Airport. A JDL spokesman said “we feel the United Nations is responsible for this latest tragedy because it has failed to act to curb international terrorism.”)
(In Vienna, it was reported today that the Soviet news agency Tass in reporting the Athens attack stressed the claims by the Palestine Liberation Organization that it was not responsible for the attack. Tass published in part an article from the Damascus newspaper, La Baath, the official voice of the ruling Socialist Baath Party, which suggested that Israeli intelligence agents ordered the attack in an attempt to shift the publicity away from the killing of a Moroccan in Norway.)
ISRAEL FEARED ATTACK WAS A DIVERSION
Meanwhile in Athens, the two Arabs who threw hand grenades and opened fire with pistols in the crowded airport transit lounge have refused to answer questions, according to authorities. Earlier it was reported that they claimed to be members of the Black September terrorist organization and said that “we have done what we came for–our mission is accomplished.” Police are also questioning two Arabic-speaking women who were taken from the airport kicking and screaming.
The two men surrendered after crouching with 35 hostages behind the lounge’s marble bar for two hours while they tried to get a plane to take them to the Middle East. Four hours after the attack police disarmed a time bomb, which had not been set to go off, found inside a letter box in the transit lounge.
Witnesses said passengers were prepared to board TWA flights to Tel Aviv and New York when one of the Arabs about to have his baggage checked for the New York flight, threw his hand grenade to the ground. Both men began firing pistols. Originally reports said both TWA planes were bound for Tel Aviv.
First reports of the incident in Israel resulted in placing Lod Airport under a state of emergency. It was feared that the Athens attack might have been a diversion for another attack else where or that the Arabs were planning to hijack a plane bound for Tel Aviv.
MAY HAVE PLANNED TO ATTACK EL AL
Police in Athens speculated that the two Arabs may have planned to attack an El Al plane which left 10 minutes before the attack began. The Israeli flight was still listed on the information board and this may have confused the Arabs, according to police.
The emergency at Lod was relaxed after passengers arrived from Athens. One of them. Dr. Gerald Stern, a 41-year-old Brooklyn dentist, said there were four persons waiting to go on the Tel Aviv-bound plane and many for the U.S. flight when he suddenly heard shots and explosions.
“I suddenly fell to the floor and wished it would open,” he said. I saw people falling, blood covering them. Blood was everywhere, and then there was quiet.” Dr. Stern said when he boarded the plane he found that the passengers did not know “that a bloody attack was just carried out in the nearby terminal.”
Two Americans killed in the attack were positively identified as Mrs. Jeannie Salandi, 23, of Highland Park, N.J., and Elbert Kersen, 53, a Union, N.J. plumbing contractor. Kersen’s wife, Kate, and Mrs. Salandi’s husband, William, were among the wounded. The third person killed was an Austrian.
The two gunmen, who reportedly had no passports, identified themselves to police as Zechod Mohammed, 21, of “Palestine,” and Palatt Hussam 21, of Cairo. Palestinian terrorist organizations in Beirut denied any connection with the attack and blamed it on “enemies of the Palestinian revolution.”