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Dutch Premier Thanks Israel for Its Cooperation Saving Lives of 80 Persons Aboard Hijacked Plane

Netherlands Premier Joop Den Uyl telephoned thanks to Foreign Minister Yigal Allon today for Israel’s cooperation in saving the lives of 75 passengers and five crew members held hostage aboard a hijacked Dutch airliner yesterday. The three hijackers, identified as Palestinian terrorists, released their victims at Larnaca airport last night in exchange for safe conduct from Greek Cypriot authorities. The airliner was seized over France shortly after taking off from Nice on a flight from Malaga to Amsterdam.

Israel Air Force Phantom jets intercepted the plane over the Mediterranean as it approached Israeli airspace yesterday. The Phantoms were called off, however, at the urgent telephone request of Netherlands Foreign Minister Max Van Der Stoel who said that radio messages from the hijacked KLM DC-9 indicated that the hijackers were becoming “nervous.” The sight of the Phantoms and the inability to find a landing place apparently was responsible for the hijackers’ decision to release the plane and its occupants unharmed.

Earlier they had threatened to blow up the aircraft and all on board unless Israel released imprisoned terrorists. Premier Yitzhak Rabin told the Cabinet yesterday that there was no contact with the hijackers or any negotiations with them, directly or indirectly, during the day-long ordeal. But yesterday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, scheduled to discuss economic matters, was interrupted several times by news of the latest hijacking.

At one point, Allon and Defense Minister Shimon Peres left the meeting and rushed to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv in anticipation of a possible attempt by the hijackers to land there. The airport was closed to all civilian traffic yesterday morning when word of the hijack first reached Israel. An Israeli team, headed by Ze’ev Scheck, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry, maintained liaison with the Netherlands Ambassador, Christian Arriens, as they monitored the movements of the hijacked plane.

DUTCH, ISRAELIS IN CLOSE CONTACT

Van Der Stoel warned Allon by telephone that the plane might attempt to enter Israeli airspace from Syrian or Jordanian territory. He urged the Israeli authorities to exercise caution and restraint, not to shoot at the plane or force it to crash land.

Allon was briefed regularly yesterday by Den Uyl who said he wanted to make sure both countries were “on the same wave-length.” Allon reportedly told the Dutch leader that he did not believe either Israel or The Netherlands should become involved and suggested that the affair be left to the Cypriot authorities and the Arab states.

The hijackers reportedly are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, headed by George Habash. Their demands reportedly included release of Kozo Okamoto, the Japanese terrorist serving a life sentence in Israel for his part in the 1972 Lod Airport massacre and Greek Catholic Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, serving a 12-year sentence for smuggling arms to terrorists. The same names were on the list of the Air France hijackers whose hostages were rescued by Israeli forces at Entebbe airport Uganda last July 3.

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