PARIS (May. 22)
French public opinion and French security services consider Saturday’s terrorist attack at Orly Airport and the communique later released by a group calling itself the Sons of South Lebanon as being, to all practical purposes, a declaration of war against France. The communique, released in Beirut a few hours after three terrorists tried to machinegun passengers waiting to embark on an EI AI flight to Tel Aviv, stated:
“We have carried out this operation (the attack) on French territory to remind the French government of its colonial past and to warn it against any return to the colonial policy which was carried out before General de Gaulle. “General de Gaulle, who became President in 1958, ended the Algerian war, strained France’s relations with Israel and tried to improve France-Arab ties.
The communique said the terrorist attack carried the code name “Abassieh” after the village in south Lebanon where French paratroopers serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), clashed with Palestinian guerrillas. In a telephone call to the Beirut office of the French daily Le Figaro, a spokesman, claiming to speak on behalf of the terrorist organization, explained: “We have nothing against the French as such but if they become ‘the Cubans of the United States,’ we shall be forced to act the way the French act in south Lebanon, Chad and Zaire.”
The spokesman added: “The Orly operation is only the first of a series which we intend to carry out in Africa and the Middle East. We, the sons of south Lebanon, will never forget the massacre carried out by French soldiers against Fatah fighters in Abassieh.”
INVOLVEMENT OF SOVIET UNION SEEN
Several French papers believe that the new terrorist organization is controlled by the Soviet Union and is part of its attempt to stop French intervention in Africa. One paper, L’Aurore, claimed that “Carlos, “the mysterious Venezuelan-born terrorist, is at its head, and personally directed the Orly attack.
French police say they have no inside information of who is behind the attack or the organization itself. The three terrorists who were killed in the ensuing shoot-out carried Tunisian and Lebanese passports believed to have been forged. Their grenades were Soviet-made but their submachineguns were a recent model of the Italian Beretta automatic pistol.
The police take seriously the Sons of South Lebanon warning. French security forces have started reorganizing the procedures at Orly Airport and are about to construct separate channels for departing passengers according to their destination to prevent passengers in transit from mixing with them.
The three terrorists reportedly held boarding cards for Tunis and joined the crowd in the transit lounge waiting to embark for Israel. The police also hope that the official PLO representatives in Paris will help them track down any possible accomplices still hiding here.
POLITICAL AND DIPLOMATIC CONSEQUENCES
Saturday’s attack and the terrorist communique’s vehement attack on France and President Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s foreign policy can have important political and diplomatic consequences. It comes at a time when French public opinion and the French political establishment are increasingly critical of Israel’s foreign policy and favorable to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and the Arab cause.
The attack also is seen by French political leaders as opposition by violent means to the French policy of intervention in Africa and the Middle East. In addition, the attack has shown in no uncertain way that the PLO cannot control all Palestinian elements and cannot claim to be the sole representative of the Palestinians, as it does.
Meanwhile, resentment has been expressed privately by French police officials over Israeli claims that the terrorists were shot by Israeli security agents practically without the help of the French riot police which guard the airport terminal and patrol the corridors and lounges.
The police are bitter, stressing that the only non-terrorist victim is a French police sublieutenant who paid with his life for the French police intervention. The police also stress that EI AI is granted more privileges then any other airline operating in France and that the EI AI security guards had always enjoyed the full help and cooperation of the French authorities.