The Government of Israel protested to Bulgaria today against the shooting down yesterday of an EI AI passenger plane with 58 persons aboard and the refusal of the Bulgarian Government to permit an Israel commission of inquiry to proceed to the site of the crash in a mountainous region four or five miles from the Greek border.
The Bulgarian Cabinet met in a special session in Sofia this morning and afterwards told the Israel Charge d’Affaires, Mr. Baruch, that the commission could not enter Bulgaria. However, Mr. Baruch, who had asked permission to proceed to Petrice, where the plane crashed, was allowed to go.
Mr. Baruch was told that the plane flew over Bulgarian territory, that Bulgarian anti-aircraft gunners had fired on it, severing its tail and causing it to crash. The bodies of the victims were removed to a Sofia hospital.
The Israel protest was contained in a note handed the Bulgarian Charge d’Affaires in Tel Aviv by Dr. Walter Eytan, director general of the Israel Foreign Ministry. It was the second Israel note of the day to Bulgaria; the first had requested information about the incident and had asked assistance for the inquiry commission which was already en route to Greece through which it hoped to enter Bulgaria. Arthur Lourie, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry, left for Sofia in connection with the incident.
The second note said that “the Israel Government had heard with amazement and horror the Bulgarian Government’s statement that Bulgarian security forces had opened fire on and shot down an EI AI plane. The Israel Government,” the note continued, “registers its vehement protest at this shocking recklessness leading to the destruction of the aircraft and the loss of 58 lives. Since there can have been no genuine difficulty in identifying an unarmed, civilian airliner of the familiar Constellation type, the action of the Bulgarian security forces can be understood only as deriving from a wanton disregard of human life and the elementary obligations of humanity which should have governed their conduct.
“The Government of Israel demands full satisfaction from the Bulgarian Government which it holds responsible for what it must regard as a grave international delict (a legal term meaning offense) and reserves its right to take the necessary steps to this end,” the note added.
“The Israel Government has noted the appointment of an inquiry commission by the Bulgarian Government. At the same time, it must insist that full facilities be afforded by the Bulgarian authorities to members of Israel’s inquiry commission, who are travelling from Salonika and have now reached the border in the vicinity of the scene of the tragedy. It must protest strongly the refusal of the Bulgarian diplomatic missions in Israel and Greece to grant visas to the commissioners, and calls on the Bulgarian Government to permit them free entry to Bulgarian territory without further delay and to give them assistance in carrying out their task,” the note concluded.
BULGARIA ISSUES STATEMENT; REPORTS ALL ON PLANE PERISHED
The official Bulgarian radio station in Sofia broadcast a statement today saying: “The Bulgarian Telegraph Agency announces it is learned that yesterday, 27 July at 7:35 a.m. Bulgarian time, an Israel passenger plane diverted from its course and had entered Bulgarian air space in the area of the town of Tarn without warning. It flew over the town of Stanke Dimitrov, the town of Blagoevgrad and southwards to the town of Petrich.
“The anti-aircraft defense was unable to identify the plane, and, after a few warnings, fired, as a result of which the plane crashed in the area north of the town of Petrich. All passengers and crew have perished. On this occasion, the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency has been authorized to express the deep regret of the Bulgarian government and of the entire Bulgarian public for this disaster.
“The Council of Ministers of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria has appointed a government commission consisting of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Mincho Neichev, the Minister of the Interiro Georgi Tsankov, the Minister of National Health Dr. Petar Kolarov and the chief public prosecutor Yorean Stoyanov to inquire into the circumstances of the disaster.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.