JERUSALEM (Jan. 1)
Premier Shimon Peres indicated strongly Wednesday that Israel would take punitive action against the Palestinian terrorist gang responsible for the coordinated attacks on El Al passenger facilities at the Rome and Vienna airports on December 27 which killed 18 people, including five Americans, and wounded more than 110.
Addressing the Knesset for the first time since the tragedy, Peres lashed out at Libya, which he called a ” murder state, ” and its leader, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, raising speculation that Libya may be the target of Israeli reprisals whenever they are taken. Libya is known to harbor Abu Nidal, the terrorist leader believed to have master-minded the airport attacks. The outrage was praised by Qaddafi.
Peres spoke a day after the U.S. appeared to give Israel a green light for any retaliatory action it might be contemplating. State Department deputy spokesman Charles Redman said yesterday that the United States and other countries have the right to take military action against terrorists. “We and other victimized states have the right to respond,” he said. (See separate story.)
AN APPEAL TO THE CIVILIZED WORLD
Peres accompanied his denunciation of Libya with an appeal to the civilized world to take a series of practical measures to combat terrorism and punish those who aid and abet it. He called on “responsible states” to expand their intelligence cooperation and tighten their anti-terrorist security at airports and aboard aircraft.
These states, Peres said, should “establish standards” of punishment, of deportation and of deterrent security. States which fail to meet these criteria must be effectively punished by international sanctions, he said.
The world has directed monumental efforts to end war, and states direct their best efforts to curb crime, the Israeli leader said. Terrorism combines both of these evils–war and crime. It could trigger massive violence, and the world must make its strongest efforts to crush it, Peres said. He said Israel for its part strives for peace but this will not affect its determination to act “without hesitation against those who act against us.”
DENOUNCES TOLERANCE OF SOME COUNTRIES
The Premier excoriated the “tolerance and lack of seriousness” displayed by some other countries toward the terrorist threat. He noted that ” the top terrorist agency, the Palestine Liberation Organization, has for years benefitted from misplaced, groundless assumptions… that it is about to change and become a political action organization. But the PLO remains unchanged. The difference between its ‘extremists’ and its ‘moderates’ is simply that the extremists execute what the moderates advocate.”
“Israel has acted before and will continue to act against any terrorist organization or individual … and against their bases … with every means at our disposal,” the Premier declared.
He went on to list at length the recent record of the Abu Nidal group: 33 attacks or attempted attacks during the past year, in which 90 persons died and 350 were injured. He said the Nidal group struck at Western targets, at moderate Arab states such as Kuwait, Jordan and Egypt. It was “apparently” responsible for the Rome and Vienna outrages.
The Nidal gang does not reside in outer space, Peres went on. It has bases in Syria and Libya and has been aided by Iran. It also received aid from sources in Europe. But its ” main strength ” was in Libya, ” a country, ” Peres said, ” which has been involved in every form of criminal violence against other states and individuals … where hit squads are welcomed home as heroes, where the characteristics of the country under Qaddafi are the pistol with the silencer and the loudspeaker that silences the truth.”
Peres added, “Some propose action against Libya. But first, one must ask, why does Libya enjoy this forgiving attitude… why is Qaddafi received in (foreign) capitals … why is no legal or economic punishment levied against him?” As long as this “forgiving attitude” toward terrorist groups and their abettors persists, the war against terrorism will not succeed, Peres warned.
CITES QADDAFI-ABU NIDAL CONNECTION
The Premier spoke in a similar vein Tuesday when he met with high school students at Kfar Saba. He pointed to Qaddafi as the man behind Abu Nidal, called for an international boycott of Libya and denounced world leaders who agree to meet with the Libyan leader “whose hands are stained with the blood of innocents and of his political rivals at home.”
The events of last Friday in Rome and Vienna capped a year of escalated terrorism in the Middle East, Western Europe and Latin America. They were preceded most recently by the hijack of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro October 7, in which Palestinian gunmen murdered a wheelchair-bound American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, apparently for no reason.
That outrage was followed on November 23 by the hijack of an Egyptian airliner enroute from Athens to Cairo, which was forced to land in Malta. A total of 60 people died at the hands of the hijackers and in the shootout with Egyptian commandos sent to rescue the hostages.