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Behind the Headlines Bombing of El Al Office in Rome Causes Widespread Anger

Official government circles and the press are expressing anger at the bombing last Sunday of the El Al office at Rome Fiumicino Airport. The press emphasized during the week that Italy must not be the staging ground for a conflict not of its making. Typical of the press reaction was the commentary in 11 Tempo: “Again we must deplore the fact that political conflicts between different countries find their dramatic theater of violence in our country — as if we ourselves didn’t have enough violence, bombs and terrorism of our own.”

All the newspapers which reported the bombing incident, for which the Palestinian “May 15th Organization” terrorists have claimed responsibility, referred to a statement to thepress by the Israel Embassy in Rome. The Israeli diplomatic representatives reminded Italy that a Palestine Liberation Organization official stationed in Rome told a press conference last February that there was an agreement between the PLO and Italy exempting Italy from Palestinian terrorist actions against Israel.

TERRORIST DIVISION OF LABOR

The fact that this agreement, which was reached after a terrorist attack in 1973 on an El Al plane at the airport, was broken last Sunday has angered official circles. While the Palestine Liberation Organization immediately denied any knowledge of or involvement in the terrorist act, the Italian press hammered home the point which it has been focusing on in the recent period: the various factions, splinters and split-offs from the PLO, which seem to act as rivals at various times, in reality provide a division of labor between the official and diplomatic segments of the PLO and its political and action squads.

In the past few days, the Italian media reemphasized that many Palestinian terrorists are trained and armed by the Soviet Union with the help of Libya.

The press also noted with dismay that the Sunday bombing here was apparently coordinated with similar bombings against Israeli installations in Athens and Vienna the following day. In Athens, two bombs exploded outside the Israel diplomatic mission which caused minor damage and no injuries. In Vienna, two bombs exploded in a garden adjacent to the Israel Embassy. One woman was slightly injured by flying glass. The incident in Vienna followed the arrest of two Palestinian gunmen there a week earlier.

Although no one was killed or injured in the bombing of the El Al office here, the incident nevertheless cast a pall on at least one Israeli-related event in Rome: the annual summer festival performance of the Israeli “Shalom” dance group. Last year some 6000 people attended the performance, but this year only some 1,500 attended. The Rome daily, “11 Messaggero” noted that this excellent group “merited a bigger audience,” and added that “evidently, fear drastically reduced the attendence.”

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