Soviets Turn Back Israeli Planes, but Ask Them to Return on Tuesday

Two Israeli planes bearing rescue specialists and equipment were turned away Monday from earthquake-devastated Soviet Armenia, apparently because of poor organization and conflicting instructions.

Two giant air force Hercules cargo planes took off from Israel early in the morning with 50 IDF and Magen David Adom medical and rescue specialists aboard and tons of equipment.

But the aircraft returned to Israel a few hours after takeoff. They were turned back shortly before landing at the Soviet Armenian capital of Yerevan.

The Soviet authorities told them by radio to return to Israel because their personnel and supplies were not needed in the region to which they had been directed.

But they were asked to fly back Tuesday to a different part of Armenia devastated by the earthquake.

On Sunday, the first airlift of Israeli relief supplies was welcomed by Soviet authorities in Armenia. According to reports from Yerevan and Moscow, the Soviet news media have made special mention of Israel’s earthquake relief effort.

But authorities have requested that Israeli army personnel wear civilian clothes and that the red Shield of David emblem not be prominently displayed on medical equipment.

Meanwhile, the Magen David Adom, Israel’s first-aid and blood collection agency, has protested that its rescue team and medical supplies were not included in the first Israeli relief flight to Armenia on Sunday.

The MDA has been trying for years to achieve international recognition as a humanitarian agency on a par with the Red Cross and the Moslem Red Crescent.

Since the disastrous earthquake struck Soviet Armenia last Wednesday, the MDA set up blood donation centers in the largest cities. Hundreds of Israelis have given blood to be flown to Yerevan.

Meanwhile, the Soviet consular delegation in Tel Aviv has opened a special bank account here for donations to Armenian earthquake relief.

NEXT STORY