LONDON (Aug. 21)
Israel will hold urgent talks with Britain about the vulnerability of El Al personnel, following yesterday’s terrorist attack in the center of London. Yoav Biran, Charge d’Affaires at the Israeli Embassy, will go to the Foreign Office tomorrow and is expected to complain about the refusal to allow El Al guards to bring their weapons into Britain when they leave the airports. However, Britain is unlikely to change its policy.
Because of the ban, and the absence of British guards, there was no chance of armed resistance when terrorists opened up with hand grenades and submachine guns on the 21 El Al crew members as they arrived for an overnight stay at the Europa Hotel on Grosvenor Square. They killed a 29-year-old flight attendant, Irit Gidron, from Kfar Galim, an agricultural settlement near Haifa.
A second flight attendant, Yehudit Arnon, 23, was injured critically with head and neck wounds. A third flight attendant, Michal Unger, 22, from Jerusalem, was injured less seriously. Six Britons who were admitted to the Middlesex Hospital are said to be out of danger.
Biran, who is in charge at the Israeli Embassy while Ambassador Avraham Kidron is on vacation in Israel, will also renew Israel’s longstanding complaint about the presence of an office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in London which embraces groups like that which claimed responsibility for yesterday’s outrage.
But Israeli demands that the office be closed down are unlikely to be granted, with British officials stressing that the office has no diplomatic status and that it cannot be banned so long as it is not directly involved in criminal activities. Last night, 50 Herut supporters demonstrated outside the PLO office, demanding it be closed. The Foreign Office today expressed repugnance at the outrage but added that retaliation was not the answer to such acts.
LACK OF PROTECTION CITED
The attack is now said by police to have been the work of only two men. One is in custody and the other was killed by his own grenade. Earlier police said they were looking for two accomplices. Press and radio bulletins have prominently reported Israeli claims that Britain did not give the El Al team sufficient protection while at the same time refusing to allow armed Israeli guards on her soil. Today Mordechai Ben-Ari, El Al president, who is in London on business, said he was “convinced” that Britain would heed Israeli suggestions regarding tighter security.
Public anxiety over the wave of Arab killings have been voiced by Conservative MP Rhodes Boyson. He has called on the government to remove the immunity from diplomatic mailbags because of suspicions that Arab embassies have used them to smuggle arms and explosives into Britain. He also called for the introduction of capital punishment for acts of terrorism.
Today there was tightened security at possible Israeli and Arab targets throughout London. At Heathrow Airport, armed police were posted around the El Al passenger desks, crowded with vacationers. This morning, Biran, accompanied by Israeli Consul Matti Hacohen, visited the wounded at the Middlesex Hospital.
BACKGROUND OF DEAD, WOUNDED
Yehudit Arnon, one of the two surviving El Al flight attendants, was tonight on a life-supporting system in the hospital after a five-hour operation to remove a bullet from her brain. Her parents arrived from Israel today to be at her bedside. Ms. Arnon, a second-year student at the Tel Aviv University School of Economics, has been with El Al only three months. The other wounded flight attendant, Michal Unger, came to Israel from Britain in 1962 and has worked for El Al just one month.
Irit Gidron, the flight attendant who was killed, was born in 1949 at Kibbutz Gezer. When she was II her parents moved to Kfar Galim. Ms. Gidron graduated from the Haifa Municipal Secondary School. She joined El Al in 1973 and only a short time ago was promoted to senior flight attendant. Her parents, Aviva and Itzhak, migrated to Palestine from Czechoslovakia after World War II as illegal immigrants.
Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, Transport Minister Meir Amit said he has cabled the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal asking it to condemn the attack on the El Al personnel and to adopt measures to prevent the recurrence of such attacks.
ISRAEL SAYS UN SHARES RESPONSIBILITY
(At the United Nations today, Israel charged that the UN shares responsibility for the attack in London. In a letter to UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, Ambassador Shamay Cahana, Charge d’Affaires of the Israeli Mission to the UN, stated:
(“The attack once again underlines the absurdity of the fact that the UN and its various organs lend themselves to the aims of Arab terror by cooperating with the PLO through the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which serves as a tool in the hands of the PLO, and through the special unit on Palestinian rights which is subordinate to that committee.”
(Cahana also said “the terror organizations involved derive encouragement from the assistance rendered to them by the UN. Such assistance therefore carries with it grave responsibility.” The letter noted that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is part of the PLO, committed the atrocity in London.)