VIENNA (Sep. 30)
Two young Arab terrorists achieved their biggest political success in the history of the anti-Israel terrorist campaign by forcing the Austrian government to yield to their political demands early Friday morning.
Before the two terrorists released their four hostages–three Soviet Jews on their way to Israel and an Austrian customs official–Austria’s Jewish-born Chancellor Bruno Kreisky announced in a radio broadcast after midnight that Austria would restrict transit facilities for Jewish emigrants and close down the transit center at Schoenau Castle near Vienna. The castle has so far served as a refugee center run by the Jewish Agency, for 70,000 Soviet Jews emigrating to Israel since Feb. 1971.
The decision, which took everyone by surprise–not only Austrian officials, but also Arab diplomats and Israelis and the two terrorists–has sparked a controversial debate in Austria. Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Patish, who had followed the dramatic events at Vienna Airport throughout the night from the Austrian Ministry of Interior, said in a statement yesterday morning: “This is the first time in the history of Arab terrorism that terrorists have obtained political concessions.”
Patish, who was summoned home by the Israeli government for further consultations, added: “The Austrian government’s decision strikes a severe blow, not only at Austrian-Israeli relations, but at all humanity. How can you support Sakharov’s struggle and protest over Allende’s fall and yet stop the emigration of fleeing refugees.”
Simon Wiesenthal, director of the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, criticized the decision by the Austrian government saying it could only lead to more terrorism. He called the promise to close Schoenau “A direct violation of the United Nations convention on refugees.”
THE DRAMA AND TENSIONS CONTINUED FOR HOURS
The terrorist attack was the first time the Israeli-Arab conflict had come to the tiny Alpine Republic. The drama began, according to police sources, Friday at 10:30 a.m. in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, 40 miles from Vienna, before the Chopin Express–the Moscow-Vienna express –crossed at noon to the Austrian border town of Marchegg. In Bratislava, the two terrorists identified as Mustafa Aoueidan, 25, and Mahmoud Khaldi, 27, boarded the train.
As two Austrian customs officials entered the compartment, they pulled out their machine guns and opened fire. A Czech train engineer was wounded. According to eye witnesses, the two Arabs then took five Jewish emigrants, but a young woman and her child managed to escape later.
Thirty-seven Jewish emigrants from the Soviet Union were on the train. The two Arabs sat in one of the compartments. One of them, Mahmoud Khaldi, is registered in Austrian political police files, as a member of the Palestinian terrorist organization, El Fatah, and has participated in the past in several terrorist attacks.
The two men then took with them three Soviet Jews, Chaim Baransky 71 and his 68-year-old. wife, Jelka, David Czaplik, 26, and the Austrian customs officer, Franz Bobits, 60. They obtained a blue Volkswagen bus and drove to Vienna’s Schzechat airport.
The negotiations went on for hours, under the eyes of hundreds of spectators, and journalists watching the drama from the airport restaurant above the ramp. The negotiations were conducted by the chief of Austrian security, Oswald Peter lunger, assisted by two prominent psychiatrists, Dr. Willibald Slug and Prof. Friedrich Hacker, a Vienna-born psychologist living in California.
Several police cars blocked the passage of the Volkswagen bus. Sharpshooters took positions on the airport terrace and behind cars, but were withdrawn later as darkness set in. The Austrian authorities reacted thus to the warning of the two psychiatrists that the Arabs were under the influence of drugs and their behavior could be spontaneous and therefore very dangerous.
Early Saturday morning the drama came to an end. The two terrorists, provided with a light Cessna plane at Vienna Airport; piloted by two Austrians, sought sanctuary in an Arab country but were initially denied permission to land in Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, the only Arab countries within the plane’s flying range. Eventually, Malta announced that it would permit the terrorists to land on its territory. However, they flew instead to Libya where they were accepted. At Tripoli Airport they told newsmen today, according to the Libyan news agency, that their aim was to “attack Zionist targets outside the occupied land.”