TEL AVIV (Nov. 19)
At least four Israeli civilians–two women and two men–were killed and more than 20 were injured in a terrorist assault on an apartment building in the new immigrant township of Beisan before dawn today. Three terrorists who occupied the building for early three hours were killed in a fierce gun and grenade battle with Israeli security forces.
Enraged townspeople hurled their bodies from a second story window and others attempted to burn them but were dispersed by police. The terrorists were identified from documents on their bodies as members of the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Beirut-based terrorist gang headed by Nayef Hawatmeh. one of Yasir Arafat’s closest associates within the Palestine Liberation Organization. (See related stories this page and P. 4.)
First reports identified the victims as Yehuda Beibas. a textile worker; Zohara. his wife;and Mrs. Mazal Me’eri, an elderly woman staying with the Beibas family. All were killed when the terrorists broke into their flat by kicking down the door and spraying the rooms with machine gun bullets. A fourth victim was identified as Jean Pierre Alami who reportedly broke his back jumping from a window to escape the terrorists. An unidentified woman was shot on a staircase. An unconfirmed report said a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Beibas was also shot to death
MOST OF THE VICTIMS WERE ASLEEP
The attack, in the rainy pre-dawn chill when most of the victims were asleep, was the first terrorist outrage of its kind since the assault on Nahariya last June 25 and the first since PLO chief Yasir Arafat’s inflammatory speech at the UN. In Nahariya, the terrorists also invaded a flat and gunned down its occupants and they did the same at Kiryat Shemona last April 11. In Maalot on May 15 they invaded a school building.
Beisan, a town of 20,000 people, mainly immigrants from North Africa, located 15 miles from the Sea of Galilee and four miles from the Jordanian border, was the first terrorist target not hear the Lebanese frontier. Israeli authorities believe the terrorists infiltrated from Jordan. Information Minister Aharon Yariv said today that the burden of proof was on Jordanian authorities to show that they were not involved in this latest outrage and did not encourage it.
According to information pieced together from early reports, the terrorists entered the town under cover of darkness and broke into a four-story building that housed about 75 adults and children. They went from floor to floor, shooting through doors and kicking at doors until they broke into the Beibas flat. Neighbors awakened by the gunfire called police who arrived quickly. By then residents of the building, adults and children, were jumping from windows and terraces.
A number were injured from falls and others were wounded by grenades hurled after them by the terrorists. A general alarm was sounded in the town and residents took to shelters as police cordoned off the building-at 1576 Hagiborim St.–held by the terrorists. A siege then began which lasted nearly three hours.
Police Minister Shlomo Hillel, who flew to the scene from Jerusalem, and the commanding officer of the northern front, Gen. Rafael Eytan, said there would be no negotiations with the terrorists.’ By mid-morning, a seven-man assault party, including soldiers and armed civilians, stormed the building and burst into the terrorist-held flat.
Rafi Ben Hammo, a reserves soldier who participated in the assault, described the scene: “The terrorists were running from window to window firing into the street. Then we heard them call out that they wanted to surrender. We stopped firing and attempted to approach them. But the terrorists threw hand grenades and opened fire with Kalachnikof rifles. We threw another grenade which finished them. We found the body of Mrs. Beibas, dead from Kalachnikof bullets.”
TERRORIST BODIES HURLED OUT OF WINDOWS
By then a crowd had gathered outside the building. Some local citizens reached the flat and hurled the terrorists’ bodies out of windows. They were set upon by the crowd. Someone brought gasoline and an attempt was made to set fire to the corpses but police intervened and took the bodies to the local police station.
According to police, five kilograms of explosives, hand grenades and assault rifles were found on the terrorists. They also had loud speakers which they apparently intended to use to negotiate with Israeli security forces. Leaflets found on the bodies identified them as members of Hawatmeh’s gang and demanded that Israel free a number of terrorists and Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, the Greek Catholic prelate on trial in Jerusalem on charges of smuggling arms from Lebanon to terrorists in Israel.
The terrorists’ mission was confirmed in a Damascus broadcast today which ignored the fact that it had failed. According to Damascus, the terrorists handed an ultimatum to Israeli authorities demanding the release of their comrades and Capucci by 5 p.m. and a plane to fly them to Damascus. The French and Austrian ambassadors in Israel were designated to serve as go-between.