Fear Mounts for Safety of Hijacked Israeli Passengers

Fear for the safety of the Israeli passengers aboard a hijacked Air France jet that landed at Entebbe, Uganda at dawn mounted today when it was learned that Uganda’s anti-Israel President Idi Amin had taken personal charge of negotiations with the hijackers. Reports from the Ugandan city that Amin was handling the matter as a military operation only increased that apprehension. But an Israeli journalist who telephoned the Entebbe airport this morning said he was told by an official there not to worry because everything was fine.

Thousands of Israelis maintained an all-night vigil by their radios after the plane which was hijacked in Athens yesterday, took off from Benghazi, Libya with a limited amount of fuel. Its 229 passengers include at least 70 Israelis and 10 or more Jews of other nationalities.

Kol Israel radio which normally goes off the air at 1 a.m. local time continued to relay news bulletins as they came in after that hour. An alert was maintained at Ben Gurion Airport throughout the night as is the practice when an aircraft is hijacked anywhere in the region. Relatives of Israelis known to be aboard the jet spent a sleepless night at the Air France office. The airline was able to provide only meagre information.

ANGER OVER LAX SECURITY

Israelis were especially angered over the French national air carrier’s apparently lax security measures. The French are believed to have considered their planes immune from Arab terrorist attack because of their Middle East policies. The wide-bodied, twin jet “air bus” hijacked yesterday is the first French airliner ever seized by terrorists.

More than 30 passenger planes of various nationalities have been hijacked since 1968 for reasons connected with the Middle East conflict. The first plane was an El Al jet on a flight from Rome to Tel Aviv which was taken over by Arab terrorists on July 23, 1968 and forced to land in Algeria.

The wave of hijackings that followed in the late ’60s and early ’70s caused stringent security measures to be taken by most international air carriers. But Air France took the least precautions. It was only after repeated persuasion by Israeli authorities that the French company required its passengers boarding at Tel Aviv to undergo thorough inspections of both their persons and their luggage. Israeli officials going abroad are urged to travel in Israeli planes wherever possible and especially to avoid Air France.

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