TEL AVIV (Dec. 18)
Lod Airport experienced on-again off-again alerts last night and this morning as authorities followed the movements of a Lufthansa jet hijacked by Palestinian terrorists yesterday in a bloody rampage at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport which took at least 36 lives. The plane landed at Athens Airport last night where the terrorists murdered four hostages after Greek authorities refused their demand for the release of two terrorists imprisoned in Greece It took off again and was reported this afternoon to have landed in Kuwait with 12 hostages still aboard. (See P.3 for reactions to carnage.)
The first alert was sounded at Lod yesterday when the hijacked plane entered Middle East airspace and approached Beirut. Lebanese authorities refused the plane permission to land and the aircraft went to Athens. The alert was relaxed at that point but reinstated this morning when the terrorist-held plane circled over Beirut again. It was relaxed when the jet landed at Damascus only to be reinstated a second time when the plane took off after refueling.
Syrian authorities refused the terrorists political asylum and the terrorists rejected Syrian government appeals to release the hostages. For the first time in the long and bloody annals of terrorist hijacking. Arab governments, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and even more militant Palestinian groups condemned the terrorist action in Rome and are demanding that the perpetrators be brought to justice. This development was linked to the Geneva peace conference. Arab governments and Palestinian leaders for the most part fear that the latest terrorist outrage might have adverse effects on the peace parley.
(In New York today, Egypt’s Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Ashraf Ghorbal, took a different view. Interviewed on the CBS Morning News television program, he said chances for success at Geneva may have been improved because the terrorist carnage has dramatized the urgency of a speedy peace settlement in the Middle East. Reports from Cairo said, however, that Egyptian political circles were concerned that the Geneva conference may be cancelled because Geneva is too dangerous a site and Swiss authorities could not provide adequate protection against possible terrorist assaults on the various delegations.)
The identity of the terrorists who firebombed a Pan American jet and machine gunned bystanders in Rome yesterday, killing at least 36 persons (earlier reports put the death toll at 42), has not yet been established. According to various sources they were tentatively identified either as members of the Black September or of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.