IAF Magazine Articles

The wings of terror

Many terror organizations's dream is to successfully hijack an aircraft and once, long before September 11th, these attempts were almost routine. 33 years ago, an El-Al plane was first hijacked, and terror organizations haven't ceased to attempt similar attacks since

Yuval Shoham

El-Al plane hijacking-Algeria

When and Where?

El-Al Boeing 707 on Flight 426 was on its way from Rome to Ben Gurion Int'l Airport was hijacked on July 23rd 1968. It was the first (and last) time an Israeli plane was hijacked. On it were 10 flight crew members and 38 passengers.

Who Were the Attackers and What Did They Demand?

Five terrorists from the "Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine". They demanded that Israel release Palestinian prisoners. But they tried to achieve something more: "To make the world aware of the Palestinian problem", in their words.

What Happened?

After the hijackers gained control of the passengers and pilots by threatening them with a gun and grenades, they instructed the captain to fly to Algeria. One of the attackers transferred on radio: "This is not El Al flight 426 to Tel Aviv. This is El-Assifa flight 707 to Algeria". After landing in Algeria, all non-Israeli, non-Jewish people and all women and children were released. Seven flight crew members and five Israeli passengers were held in Algeria by local authorities who cooperated with the terrorists.

How Did It End?

Initially, Israel refused to satisfy the attackers' requirements, but ended up having to negotiate with them while mediating through several different authorities and countries. Five months later, Israel agreed to release 24 Palestinians. The plane and those captured were released after 39 days in captivity. As a result of the hijacking, the IDF led "Operation Gift" in Lebanon (1968 Raid on Lebanon), and terrorist organizations on their part continued in their attempts (and some successes) to hijack planes.

Hijacking of Flight 840 of the TWA Company

When and Where?

A Boeing 707 of American company TWA, which was on its way from Los- Angeles to Greece, was kidnapped on August 29, 1969. On the plane were seven flight crew members and 120 passengers, of which six were Israelis.

Who Were the Attackers and What Did They Demand?

Leila Khaled and Salim Issawi from the "Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine". As in the earlier case, the kidnapping was to serve as a bargaining tool and for exposure of the Palestinian problem.

What Happened?

The attackers took over the plane with guns, grenades and other explosives. The plane landed in Damascus, and the passengers were ushered by the Syrians into one of airport halls. All passengers were released after six days except six Israeli passengers. Four Israeli women were released, but the other two Israeli passengers - Tzalah Mualem and Shlomo Samueloff - were transferred to a Syrian prison.

How Did It End?

Mualem and Samueloff were in the Syrian prison for 98 days. In early December, a prisoner exchange deal took place: The Damascus hostages and two Israeli pilots who had been held in Egypt, Giora Romm and Nissim Ashkenazi, were released. In exchange, Israel released 71 Egyptians and Syrians.

El Al flight 219 Hijacking Attempt

When and Where?

On September 6th 1970, terrorists from the "Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine" attempted to hijack El Al Flight 219 that left from Tel Aviv, stopped over in Amsterdam, and continued to New York. On the plane were 138 passengers and 10 crew members. The abduction itself was thwarted, but other kidnappers from the "Front" managed to snatch 4 jets of other international airlines and deliver most of them to Zarqa Airport in Jordan. September 6th is considered "The Black Day of Aviation".

Who Were the Attackers and What Did They Demand?

Four terrorists from the "Front" were trying to board a flight to Amsterdam, but only two (Leila Khaled and Farick Arguelo) succeeded. The other two were rejected by Israeli security, but they didn't give up and boarded flight Pan-Am 93 which they hijacked. They demanded the release of terrorists imprisoned in Israel and attempted to attract the world's attention to them.

What Happened?

As the plane approached the coasts of Britain, the terrorists extracted their guns and forced the passengers to enter the cockpit. The Captain of the plane carried out a steep dive which made the hijackers lose balance and fall.
Commotion erupted in the cabin, during which Arguelo was shot by security while the other passengers and security guards were able to take over Khaled. Arguelo was able to throw a grenade down the plane aisle, but luckily it failed to explode.
The plane landed in London, and Arguelo and Khaled were taken by ambulance to a hospital. Arguelo died from his injuries, and Khaled was arrested by British authorities. That same day three other planes were kidnapped. But their fates were different from the El-Al flight's.
The hijacked flights were: TWA 741 (55 Israelis were on the flight), Swissair 100 (20 Israelis were on the flight), Pan-Am 93 and BOAC 775 (abducted three days later). The planes landed in Zarqa Airport, an isolated desert airstrip in Jordan.

How did it end?

125 hostages were transferred to Amman, while all Israelis, Americans, Swiss and West Germans, as well as Jewish passengers, were held on planes. A prisoner exchange was held two weeks later, during which all hostages were released in exchange for terrorists from the organization, including Leila Khaled.
The hijacking incident accelerated the events of "Black September" in Jordan, during which King Hussein fought the Palestinian organizations threatening to take over his kingdom, and expelled them.

The Sabena Plane Hijacking

When and Where?

On May 8th 1972, a flight 571of the Belgian airline Sabena on was hijacked on its way from Brussels to Ben Gurion Int'l Airport. The flight held 99 passengers and 10 crew members.
Who Were the Attackers and What Did They Demand?
The kidnappers belonged to the terrorist group "Black September" who boarded the flight in Brussels, Belgium. Four terrorists participated in the kidnapping event itself: two men and two women. The kidnappers demanded the release of 315 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel and threatened to blow up the plane and passengers if their demands were not met.

What Happened?

As the plane flew over Greece, one of the terrorists got up, walked into the cockpit, put a gun to the captain's head and ordered him to land at in Ben Gurion Int'l Airport.
Israel had already begun to plan a rescue operation, which was eventually executed by the elite commando unit 'Sayeret Matkal" led by Ehud Barak, later the Prime Minister.

How Did It End?

On May 9th, the unit forces approached the plane, its fighters disguised in white overalls as mechanics who came for maintenance checks. The Force, which included future Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, broke in and within minutes managed to kill two hijackers and gain control of the two others.
Three passengers were wounded in the operation, and one of them later died of her wounds. The two women terrorists were released following a prisoner exchange deal. The hijack was, in fact, a surprising incident for many Israelis. This was the first time the "Black September" organization turned its actions toward Israel. Four months later the same organization would perform its worst attack yet: the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.

The Air France Hijacking-Operation "Entebbe"

When and Where?

On June 27th 1976, an Air France Airbus A300, flight number 139 from Israel to Paris, was hijacked while parked a stopover in Athens. On the plane were 240 passengers, including about 100 Jews and Israelis.

Who Were the Attackers and What Did They Demand?

Four terrorists hijacked the plane: two Germans and two Palestinians, who belonged to "The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine". Four more terrorists joined them in Uganda. They demanded the release of 53 terrorists, most of them were imprisoned in Israel. The terrorists also set an ultimatum for the Israeli government - if their demands would not be met by July 1st (then they extended it to July 4th) the hostages would be executed.

What Happened?

After taking over the plane, the terrorists ordered the captain to fly to Entebbe, Uganda. There, the hijackers herded the Israelis and Jews into the lounge of the airport, and let the other passengers out. The Israeli government negotiated with the hijackers and Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, while IDF forces prepared to execute the rescue mission.

How Did It End?

On July 3rd, four IAF Hercules planes took off, laden with Special Forces troops, 'Golani' fighters and Paratroopers. The planes landed at Entebbe airport and soldiers drove toward the terminal building in jeeps.
During the rescue operation, battles took place between IDF soldiers and the terrorists and Ugandan army. Commander of the Elite Commando Unit, Lieutenant Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed in the process along with three hostages. One female passenger, who was hospitalized nearby, was murdered after the operation. All the hijackers were killed in action along with around 20 Ugandan soldiers.
The remaining hostages were transferred to the Hercules planes, which returned them safely to Israel.

 

More in this section

The A-4 Skyhawk era with the IAF is coming to an end. The planes that attacked, plummeted and bred generations of combat pilots and navigators, will step down after more than four decades in service. Which instructional plane will replace it? The IAF set out to decide and narrowed down the choices to likely candidates. All the details in the article ahead

Artistry in the Sky

The people gathered in the crowd did not allow themselves to miss them and they did not allow themselves to miss a millimeter. Three pilots of the Air Force's Aviation Acrobatics team share experiences from their new plane and discuss how many new maneuvers might appear at the next wings ceremony