Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Terrorist Attack on El Al Mini-bus Kills Airline Stewardess, in Jures 8

August 21, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

An El Al stewardess was killed this afternoon and eight persons injured, five of them seriously, when terrorists attacked an El Al mini-bus with machine guns and hand grenades outside a hotel on fashionable Grosvenor Square in the heart of London. Her name was not immediately disclosed, pending notification of next of kin.

A man, who was also killed, is believed to have been one of three Arabs who ambushed the bus bringing 21 El Al crew members to the Europa Hotel. The eight injured-not all of whom were Israelis–were taken to the Middlesex Hospital where some underwent emergency operations. The dead man is believed to have been one of the terrorists, killed by a ricochet from his grenade. Another terrorist was captured by armed police who were quickly on the scene. A third terrorist escaped. One of the injured is believed to have been the driver of a taxi which drew up just as the attack started. Others were members of a wedding party standing outside the hotel.

The El Al crew were to have stopped in London overnight after manning an aircraft on the trans-Atlantic leg of its flight from New York to Israel. The aircraft later resumed its flight on time.

(In Jerusalem, Transport Minister Meir Amit, calling on governments everywhere to tighten their security and increase cooperative efforts in preventing terrorist attacks, ordered a full investigation of the terrorist attack in London to determine whether it was due in part to failings in EL AL’s security arrangements. Mordechai Hod, director-general of El Al, also noted that the success of the London attack undoubtedly pointed to certain failings in El Al’s security. In an interview with Israel Radio, Hod could not, however, say yet whether these were Israeli or British security responsibilities.)


Bystanders told police they heard four explosions and then the gunfire. Police threw a cordon around the area immediately after the attack. Commander Jim Neville, head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist squad who is in charge of the investigation, said two machineguns were used and three grenades exploded.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called London news agencies and said it had committed the attack as “a last warning against the use of the Israeli airline El Al.”

The Europa Hotel is on the fringe of an area where Arab terrorists have been particularly active over the past few months. Around the corner is the office where Said Hammami, the Palestine Liberation Organization official, was murdered in January. A little further away is the hotel where a former Iraqi Premier was murdered in July.

Also nearby is the Churchill Hotel where last month’s conference of the Israeli and Egyptian foreign ministers was originally to have been held. It was shifted to Leeds Castle, Kent, because British police said that this area of London was too dangerous.

However, while most of the recent terrorist incidents have been internal Arab affairs, this was the first attack on an Israel or Jewish target here for almost five years. At the end of 1973 a terrorist tried to murder J. Edward Sieff, honorary president of the Zionist Federation. In September 1972, Dr. Ami Shachori, the agricultural attache at the Israeli Embassy, was killed by a letter bomb. Grosvenor Square is the site of the massive U.S. Embassy in London. It is also a favorite site for American tourists because a statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt is located there.

Recommended from JTA