TEL AVIV (Dec. 12)
District Police Chief David Offer said tonight that the terrorist whose grenade-throwing rampage in a crowded Tel Aviv movie house last night took three lives including his own, was carrying a passport which was believed to have been forged. The attack injured 58 persons, some of them seriously.
The army meanwhile has set up a commission of inquiry to look into security arrangements at movie theaters. Guards have been posted at movie houses for the past few years but usually limit themselves to inspecting parcels and women’s handbags. The guard at the theater apparently did not become suspicious of the coat the terrorist was wearing because many people were wearing coats last night due to the cold, rainy weather. Security is also being reviewed at Ben Gurion Airport where the terrorist had no trouble passing through customs carrying a suitcase apparently filled with explosives.
The man who was blown up by his own grenade was identified as Alexander Adam Hooper, a white, born in Accra, Ghana and living in Turkey, according to a British passport he was carrying. He arrived on a flight from the Far East yesterday morning, about 12 hours before he hurled the grenades in the balcony of the Chen Cinema on Dizengoff Square in the heart of downtown Tel Aviv. According to Offer, the terrorist entered the theater with the grenades hidden in a plastic girdle concealed by his overcoat. He threw three and the fourth exploded on his body.
The other dead were identified today as Robin Kieth Barburry, 34, an engineer from England who worked in a Tel Aviv food cannery, and his Israeli friend, Sarah Schuchman, 28, of Tel Aviv. Thirty injured persons were released from Ichilov Hospital today but others were reported in a serious condition and nine are on the critical list. Dr. I. Keusch, of Ichilov Hospital, said most of the injured were treated for wounds in the hands, legs and eyes. At least some of them are believed to have been hurt in the panicked rush for exits after explosions rocked the theater.
URGE TO PUBLIC TO REMAIN COOL
Israeli authorities rejected a Palestine Liberation Organization boast in Beirut today that its men carried out the grenade attack in retaliation for Tuesday’s rocket attack on PLO head-quarters in Beirut by presumed Israeli agents. The authorities said the man identified as Hooper left the Far East before the Beirut incident. That was corroborated today by an Israeli lawyer, Israel Habass, who said he met Hooper in Bangkok on his way to Israel from Singapore, long before the PLO headquarters were hit. Israel Air Force jets attacked El Fatah and PLO installations south of Beirut today.
Mayor Shlomo Lehat of Tel Aviv urged the public last night to be on the alert but to remain cool. Police Minister Shlomo Hillel said that while every precaution is taken, not all terrorist attacks can be prevented. He said that Tel Aviv now knows that all of Israel is a common front in the battle against terrorism.
The Chen, which was showing a film called “A Man Named Flatfoot,” was jammed. Hooper entered shortly after 9 p.m. when the second show was about to start and took a seat in the back row in the far corner of the balcony. Shortly after 10 p.m. he rose and began to throw grenades.
Some eye-witnesses said he threw two and the third exploded in his hand. Others said that at least five explosions resounded through the theater at one second intervals. Police doubted that Hooper meant to kill himself. They said the fact that he took a seat near an exit Indicated that he intended to escape in the confusion caused by the explosions.
FIRST FATAL ASSAULT IN TEL AVIV
The attack was the first fatal terrorist assault in Israel’s largest city since 1971, when a grenade exploded in Tel Aviv’s central bus terminal. Police cordoned off Dizengoff Square last night and kept furious crowds at bay as some enraged spectators demanded vengeance. Several Arabs who work in restaurants in the neighborhood were taken into protective custody. Security officials urged Israelis not to retaliate against local Arabs or residents of the West Bank.
HOOPER’S MOVEMENTS TRACED
The PLO claimed that four men carried out the grenade attack and three got away. Police were uncertain whether Hooper acted alone or with an accomplice. But they were able to trace his moments from the time he landed at Ben Gurion Airport yesterday morning until the grenade attack. The man identified as Hooper landed from either a TWA or Air France flight from the Far East–both flights touched down within minutes of each other–and went through customs carrying a single suitcase and a British Commonwealth passport. He said he had nothing to declare.
A taxi driver recalled taking Hooper to the Commodore Hotel on Dizengoff Square just opposite the Chen Theater, where he checked in. Police who searched his room later found a valise filled with plastic explosives. They said that Hooper apparently prepared the grenades in his hotel room and was planning to prepare more for further attacks.
According to eye-witnesses, a man answering Hooper’s description was seen entering the Ordan movie house on Dizengoff Square but left a short while later for the Chen. Police believe he did not carry out his attack in the Ordan because the audience was sparse and he wanted to inflict the maximum casualties.