PARIS (Jan. 14)
The terrorist bazooka attack at Orly Airport yesterday which narrowly missed an El Al jet in take-off, severely damaged a parked Yugoslavian airliner and injured several people slightly, appeared today to have had its most devastating effect on France’s Middle East policy. French government sources were unable to conceal their embarrassment over the fact that France’s pro-Arab stance and especially its sympathy with the Palestinian cause, did not render Orly immune from a terrorist outrage that could easily have taken scores of lives.
The mass circulation France-Soir noted in an editorial that “France is no longer a sanctuary exempt because of its Arab policy and its stand in favor of getting the international community to recognize the Palestinian reality.” The paper was referring to the Beirut meeting recently between Foreign Minister Jean Sauvagnargues and Palestine Liberation Organization chieftain Yasir Arafat. Sauvagnargues was the first top level Western diplomat to hold official talks with Arafat.
French Jewish groups seized on the incident to further blast France’s Mideast policy. A statement by the Council of Jewish Intellectuals for Israel said the bazooka attack was one of “the bitter fruits of the recent encouragement given to Yasir Arafat by a member of the French government,” meaning Sauvagnargues.
The militant Zionist Socialist Students’ Liaison Committee (CLESS) held President Valery Giscard d’Estaing directly responsible for the attack at Orly which it said “reaffirmed the Palestinian desire to find a final solution to the Jewish people.” The CLESS statement charged that the French President, by remaining silent on such occasions, only indicated “his complicity.”
EL AL WAS THE TARGET
Accounts of the Orly attack and evidence collected by police since yesterday made it almost a certainty that the El Al plane with 143 persons aboard on a flight to New York was the terrorists’ target. Although the notorious Black September, which claimed responsibility yesterday, denied any connection with the incident today, Commissaire Roux, chief of the Airport Police at Orly, disclosed that the bazooka abandoned by the terrorists was of the same type used by Palestinian terrorists in an abortive attempt to shoot down an El Al plane near Rome Airport last year. He said the bazooka was of Russian make and the projectiles used may have been the new Soviet SAM-7 anti-aircraft rockets rather than the Soviet-made Stella rockets used in the Rome attack.
Another Palestinian terrorist group, the “Mohammed Boudia Commando,” has not withdrawn its claim of responsibility. But today another terrorist group calling itself the Young Croatian Army, issued statements in Paris and New York claiming that it was responsible and that the Yugoslavian airliner was the target. Yugoslav government sources in Belgrade said, however, that it was unlikely that Croatian extremists who oppose the Tito regime were involved.
Although French police are investigating all possibilities, they appear to be convinced that the Orly attack was the work of Arab terrorists and was aimed at the Israeli airliner. Police combed cheap hotels in the Latin quarter today which are favored by young Arab students sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. But they were not optimistic about prospects of finding the Orly terrorists, described by witnesses as tall, dark and in their thirties.
“They obviously belong to a well organized group and are well trained,” a police spokesman said. Their white car, a Pequot, in which they made their get-away, was found abandoned yesterday in a suburb south of Paris. Meanwhile, the government increased security measures at Orly by posting an extra 100 members of the elite CRS police force there.