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Passengers Aboard Hijacked Plane Arrive in Israel and Tell Their Stories

July 25, 1968
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Mr. and Mrs. Leon Peppo, of Bogata, Colombia, began their honeymoon here today one day late. The reason for the delay was that the Peppos had been passengers on the El Al airliner that was hijacked Tuesday when it left Rome for Lydda International Airport and was diverted to Algiers, and had been kept in detention by the Algerians for 14 hours before being released and put on an Europe-bound plane.

The Peoppos arrived at Lydda this morning with four other passengers from the hijacked plane – an American girl of 18, an American-born naturalized Israeli woman and two Libyan Jews migrating to Israel. The two Libyan Jews, Kino and Asher Rakah, had been living in Italy since they left their native country after the June, 1967 war. They said they had spotted the three Arabs who hijacked the plane when they boarded the craft at Fiumicino Airport but were told by other passengers that they were being unduly suspicious. The two said that after the Arabs seized control of the plane, they secretly destroyed their Libyan passports and the Algerians gave only a cursory inspection to their Italian identity cards.

A 27-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y. housewife, Mrs. Rina Uziel, was to have flown from Rome to Lydda on Monday but could not get a seat and had to wait a day. She was born in Israel and holds Israeli and United States citizenships. She ascribed her release to the fact that she spoke only English, not Hebrew on the plane.

Gabriel Giaz, of Long Beach, Cal., told reporters at Lydda that the conduct of the El Al crew and hostesses had been exemplary. Both she and Mrs. Uziel confirmed the reports that the plane’s first officer, Maoz Porez, had been injured by the hijackers. Miss Giaz praised the hostesses for the manner in which they calmed the passengers and administered first aid to Mr. Porez.

Mrs. Uziel said that two of the hijackers, armed with revolvers and hand-grenades, threatened the passengers while a third entered the pilot’s cabin. All the passengers, she said, with the exception of seven Catholic priests, were ordered to keep their hands up for two hours. Mr. Porez emerged from the pilot’s cabin, she said, with blood streaming down his face from a head injury. One of the Arabs, she said, dipped his finger in the blood, licked it and remarked, “it tastes good. It’s Jewish blood!”

(In Paris, Father Eugenio d’Allesandro, an Italian priest, said that the Arab had carried a bowl out of the pilot’s compartment and said,”this is blood.” Then, after dipping his finger in it and tasting it, said, “Israeli blood tastes good!”

(Some of the passengers who flew on to Rome from Paris, said that one of the hijackers had tried to make one of the hostesses admit that she was carrying a secret diplomatic letter from the Israel Embassy in Rome to Israel. He was quoted as saying that he had followed the woman all day and had seen her enter and leave the Embassy.)

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