Passengers on an El Al flight from Paris who had been targets of an Arab terrorist machinegun attack at Orly Airport yesterday afternoon, arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in the early hours this morning with eyewitness accounts of the shoot-out. They claimed that had it not been for the alertness and instant response of Israeli security guards, the Lod Airport massacre of May 30, 1972 would have been repeated. The three terrorists were killed in a hail of bullets near the El Al boarding gate, but not before one of them fatally shot a French policeman. Two other policemen and three passengers waiting to board an lberia Airline flight to Malaga from an adjoining gate were wounded.
The arriving El Al passengers credited Israeli security guards with gunning down the terrorists. Reports from Paris said French police opened fire killing the terrorists seconds after they drew their weapons. The eye-witnesses landed at Ben Gurion Airport at 2 a.m. local time, many hours late because their departure from Paris was delayed by the attack.
GROUP CANCELS TRIP AFTER SHOOTING
There were only about a dozen passengers in the El Al jumbo jet. Originally a tourist party of over 200 French insurance agents was to have made the flight but the group cancelled their trip after the shooting. The arriving passengers said this was because three of the group were wounded but reports from Paris said the casualties were Liberian Airline passengers and that no El Al passengers were hurt.
Two of the French tourists, Claude and Miriam Haddad, made the trip anyway. Haddad said he convinced nine others to stay with the flight despite the shock of the attack. Itzhak Amram, of Tel Aviv, an Israeli returning from Paris, said there was chaos at the Orly terminal when the shooting began. He said there was no one to direct the passengers Until French police arrived at the scene.
Another returning passenger was Labor Minister Israel Katz. He said he was certain the attack was not directed at him because he booked on the flight at the last minute after reaching Paris from Nice. Minister of Justice Shmuel Tamir, who is acting Minister of Transport, met the plane at Ben Gurion Airport this morning, accompanied by Mordechai Hod, director general of El Al.
EXPRESSES APPRECIATION TO FRANCE
Tamir said he had telephoned the French Minister of Transport last night to express appreciation for the speedy action of French security personnel and regret over the death of the French policeman. An Israeli security man said, however, that he and his colleagues frequently warned the French authorities about laxity at Orly. He said that if the terrorists’ belongings had been searched thoroughly before they entered the airport terminal, their guns and grenades would have been discovered.
Hod insisted that the attack was not aimed specifically at El Al. He said the terrorists were out to kill any passengers bound by Israel. He told reporters that Israeli security guards operate side-by-side with local police and security agents at various airports He said El Al cooperates fully with local security authorities but is aware that responsibility for the safety of passengers and aircraft rests with the countries where the flights originate.
THE SCENE AT ORLY AIRPORT
The attack occurred at about 3 p.m. Paris time yesterday after the El Al passengers had passed through check-in formalities and had their luggage searched. They were waiting at the boarding gate
The reports of eye-witnesses conflict at that point, some saying that Israeli security men shot the terrorists first and were then joined by French police, others that the police opened fire first. The airport was evacuated for about three hours while police and security guards searched the vast area. The Governor of Val de Marne Department where Orly is located reported later that the three dead terrorists were apparently the only ones involved.
French police sources said the three men had arrived at Orly from Tunis a few hours earlier. According to those sources, two of them carried Tunisian passports and one a Libyan passport. But police believe their documents may have been forged. Apart from their weapons, on propaganda material or anything else was found on the bodies to explain the reason for the attack.
Israeli sources claimed tonight that the organization behind the attack was a unit headed by Abu Nidal who cooperates with George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They said these terrorists use obscure names to identify themselves so as not to aggravate relations with countries friendly to the Arab cause.