Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Many of the Terrorists Released by Israel Murdered and Maimed Israelis

May 8, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The 76 Palestinian terrorists released by Israel in exchange for one captured Israeli soldier last March 14 included at least 33 who were serving life sentences for acts involving the murder and maiming of Israeli soldiers and civilians, it was disclosed today. The names of 65 of the terrorists and descriptions of their crimes were published by Yediot Achronot after they appeared in a terrorist pamphlet which claimed that the prisoner exchange was a “great victory” over Israel.

The disclosure is expected to raise a political storm in view of the Cabinet’s recent decision, at the urging of Premier Menachem Begin, to apply the death penalty to terrorists convicted of brutal crimes. The prisoner exchange was arranged by Defense Minister Ezer Weizman with the consent of Begin but without the knowledge of the rest of the Cabinet.

The government claimed at the time that two-thirds of the released Palestinians were common criminals not involved in terrorist acts and that none of the rest were well-known terrorists. But the authorities refused to divulge their names.


The list published today, however, disclosed that one of the freed killers, Abd Al Rahim Jaber of Hebron, received life sentences on nine separate counts plus 54 years on another count. He was arrested in 1968 after a two-year manhunt. Another terrorist, Kamal A-Din El-Nimri was sentenced to life imprisonment on each of five counts plus ten years. Ibrahim Salameh Abu Arab and Mahmoud Al Leham both received three life sentences plus 20 years for terrorist acts attempted at Ben Gurion Airport. They were arrested in 1967.

These criminals and many of the others appeared on lists of terrorists whose release was demanded in exchange for Israeli hostages, actual or intended. Israel’s policy had always been never to accede to terrorist demands. The terrorists are now circulating pamphlets on the West Bank boasting that they achieved their goal without risk.

The crimes for which the terrorists had been serving sentences included the organization of assassination squads; blowing up fuel depots; and planting bombs in civilian areas. At least four of there freed are women. Eishe Ahmed Auda, arrested in 1969, received a double life sentence for planting a bomb in a Jerusalem supermarket.

Rasmiyeh Auda was given three life sentences for placing a bomb in the British Consulate in Jerusalem and for other terrorist acts. Afifa Hanna Banoura was sentenced to life for planting a bomb at Ein Karem. Eissa Tanous was arrested in 1972 after hijacking a Sabena (Belgian) airliner at Ben Gurion Airport.

Others are Attaya Mouhammed el-Attan, who was given three life sentences for participating in the killing of Israeli soldiers; Hassan Othman Albat, sentenced to life in 1969 for planting a bomb in Jerusalem; Mahmoud Hassan Abu Danhash, sentenced to life in 1970 for firing on Israeli soldiers, several of whom were killed. The list of crimes also included throwing hand grenades, firing on army camps and army vehicles and attacking civilian settlements.


Yediot Achronot revealed that of the 76 Palestinians set free, 11 have returned to Israel or Israel-occupied territories where they remain at large. The prisoner exchange took place at Geneva airport on March 14 under the auspices of the international Red Cross.

The freed Israeli soldier was Avraham Amram, one of seven Israeli soldiers and civilians who strayed across enemy lines while on a sightseeing tour in south Lebanon a year ago in violation of military orders. They were waylaid by terrorists of Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Four of Amram’s companions were killed and two managed to return to Israeli lines, one of them wounded. Amram was held prisoner and subjected to repeated beatings and torture, he told reporters on his release.

Israeli authorities maintained that the exchange was not a matter of policy but an executive action taken on humanitarian grounds. They said the condition of Amram’s wife and children warranted that approach. But to many Israelis, the government’s present demands for the death penalty appear incomprehensible coming less than two months after the release of terrorists whose crimes were of such magnitude that the courts imposed the maximum allowable sentences.

This situation is expected to intensify the Knesset’s debate over capital punishment due to begin shortly. The government’s position may be compromised as a result of this development. When former Premier Yitzhak Rabin, a critic of the Cabinet’s death penalty decision, demanded last week that the names of the freed terrorists be revealed Israeli authorities were reluctant to divulge this information. Ironically, the names had already been published by the terrorists themselves.

Recommended from JTA