TEL AVIV (Aug. 12)
Something unusual was to take place. That was the feeling at the Israeli airbase as the red lights were put on and the interceptor pilots were called for action and the mission was explained. The target a Lebanese Middle East Airline Caravelle was to be intercepted and brought to an Israeli airbase.
As the Israeli Interceptors took off, the Caravelle made its final preparations to leave for the rather short trip to Baghdad. The Caravelle became airborne and the Israeli interceptors closed in at rather low levels. The instruction was clear: Follow us. The pilot of the Caravelle, a Palestinian, followed the Israeli interceptors. It was not a long flight and the plane was brought to what the pilot later said was somewhere near Haifa.
When the Caravelle touched down a number of army cars followed it and as the plane stopped the soldiers burst into the plane and asked in Arabic and French that all remain seated quietly. The men were first taken down and then the women and children. It was almost a red carpet treatment for the women and children as women soldiers and women officers, all speaking French or Arabic, gave them refreshments and sweets.
Meanwhile Israeli officers inspected the male passengers. One by one the screening was carried out. Even the Iraqi Minister of Planning and the Iraqi Ambassador to Qatar were passed quickly. It was not them. The Iraqi VIP’s seemed somewhat disappointed that their status made no impression on the Israelis. The Israelis were looking for terrorists, but they were not there.
A feeling of disappointment engulfed the Israelis. The screening ended and the passengers were taken back to the plane, the crew was asked if it needed any help, fuel or navigational advice. The captain said he would proceed to Haifa and from there to Beirut along the coast. Two hours after touch down the Caravelle took off again and this time it was not followed by Israeli interceptors. The operation was a success but the aim was not achieved.