NEW YORK (Dec. 2)
Trans-World Airlines said today that it has not yet decided when to fly its hijacked Boeing 707 jet out of Damascus although the aircraft has been fully repaired and flight-tested. A TWA spokesman, questioned by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, could not say whether or not the jet liner would take off without the two Israeli passengers who have been held captive by Syria since the plane was hijacked to Damascus by Arab commandos last Aug. 29.
The spokesman said that was a matter that has been under negotiation between TWA and various government bodies for some time. He said the negotiation were still in progress. The aircraft was severely damaged by a bomb placed in the cockpit by the commandos after it landed in Damascus more than three months ago, necessitating the replacement of its nose section. A Reuters dispatch from Damascus on Nov.26 said a successful test flight had been carried out the day before. This was confirmed by TWA in New York. Reuters quoted a Syrian civil aviation department official as saying that the plane “will leave for Rome within days.”
There was no word however as to the fate of Prof. Shlomo Samueloff and Sallah Muallem who remain in Syraian hands despite world wide protests and personal pleas for their release made to United Nations Secretary General U Thant by their wives. Should the TWA jet be flown out of Damascus without them, it would be the first instance in which a hi-jacked air liner abandoned any of its passengers.
NATIONWIDE CAMPAIGN AIMS TO EXERT PRESSURE ON SYRIA
In a related development, the American Jewish Congress announced today that it was launching a nationwide petition campaign calling for action by the international aviation industry to punish any country that cooperates with air hijackers. Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld, president of the AJ Congress, said the petition would be directed to the International Air Transport Association, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations. It calls on them to cut off air traffic from any country whose actions make it an accomplice in aerial hijacking and to make it clear that they will no longer fly to any nation that refuses immediately to return a hijacked plane, its passengers and crew or provides sanctuary for the hijackers and fails prosecute or extradite them properly.
Rabbi Lelyveld said that AJ Congress is urging its chapters and affiliates across the country to circulate the petition among community groups of all kinds for signatures. He said it would be presented to the three international aviation agencies early next year. Rabbi Lelyveld said that although the petition was intended to thwart all hijacking, its immediate aim was to exert pressure on the Syrian Government to release the two Israeli captives.
Meanwhile plans were announced here too for a march on the Syrian Mission to the UN next Thursday by 1000 New York college students to protest the continued detention of two Israeli hijack victims. The march is being organized by the AD HOC Students Committee to Free the Demascus Two, a group that includes various Jewish and other student groups on and off campuses in the New York metropolitan area.