LONDON (Jul. 8)
The British government has expressed “grave concern” over the unknown fate of Mrs. Dora Bloch, one of the hostages on the hijacked Air France jet, who disappeared under suspicious circumstances from Mulagao Hospital in Kampala, Uganda over the weekend. Edward Rowlands, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, told Parliament yesterday that urgent inquiries made through the British acting High Commissioner in Uganda have failed to elicit information from Ugandan authorities as to the whereabouts of the 74-year-old woman who is a British subject and also a citizen of Israel where she resides.
(Serious concern was expressed in Israel today that Mrs. Bloch may have been harmed. Foreign press reports picked up by Israeli newspapers said she was dragged from the hospital screaming by four “security men on Idi Amin’s orders Sunday night,” the night after Israeli commandos succeeded in liberating most of the hostages held at Entebbe Airport.
(Israeli diplomats have appealed to the International Red Cross in Geneva to intervene but the IRC reportedly declined to act unless requested to do so by the British and French governments as well. Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren sent urgent appeals to the Pope, to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, to UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and to President Ford.
(Official circles in Jerusalem said privately today that the chances of Mrs. Bloch being found alive were slim. However, some suggested that Ugandan President Idi Amin may be holding her with the intent of extracting some humiliating gesture from Israel in exchange for her safety.)
Mrs. Bloch, accompanied by one of her sons, economist Han Hartuv, was enroute to New York to attend the wedding of another son when the Air France “air bus” was hijacked shortly after leaving Athens airport June 27. She was taken to the Ugandan hospital from Entebbe Airport when she choked on food supplied the hostages after the landing. Her son was among the 102 hostages rescued by Israeli forces Saturday night.
UGANDA DENIES KNOWLEDGE
Rowlands told Parliament that Mrs. Bloch was visited at the hospital by a British official on July 1. The official was told by two Ugandan plainclothesmen that she would be transferred to the Imperial Hotel in Kampala. When he returned to the hospital an hour later with food for Mrs. Bloch, the official was not allowed through the main gate, Rowlands reported.
Since then the acting British High Commissioner in Kampala has been trying to contact Mrs. Bloch through every channel, including a search by Ugandan police. But the Ugandan authorities now say they have no knowledge of her whereabouts and that Uganda ceased to be responsible for the hostages after the Israeli rescue operation at Entebbe. “The situation clearly gives cause for grave concern,” Rowlands said. He said High Commissioner James Henessy returned today to Kampala with instructions to report immediately his findings in the matter. Rowlands stated that Britain could not accept Uganda’s claim that it had no knowledge of Mrs. Bloch.
SON APPEALS FOR RELEASE
(In Jerusalem, Hartuv, who had acted as translator when Amin addressed the Israeli hostages before the rescue took place, appealed to the Ugandan leader to release his mother. “On behalf of her children and her grandchildren, we beg you to release Dora Bloch and send her back to her family, Hartuv stated in a cable to Amin. Meanwhile, according to a report from Nairobi, a Ugandan official asked about Mrs. Bloch’s whereabouts, said: “Don’t ask us, ask Israel.”)