DAMASCUS: Arab commandos dramatically hijacked an American jet ail liner with 113 people aboard over Southern Italy today [Aug 29] “as a counter-blow against the US sale of Phantom fighters to Israel”. Shortly after, the Trans World Airlines (TWA) Boeing 707 landed in Damascus with an escort of Syrian jet fighters. All 101 passengers and twelve crew arrived in Damascus safe and sound, according to assurances received from Syria, Italian authorities announced in Rome.

Sources close to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Beirut claimed responsibility for the operation. A youth and a girl belonging to the Front had hijacked the plane on a flight from Rome to Athens in order to strike at American interests backing Israel, the sources said. ... Beirut Airport denied the aircraft permission to land there, as the Palestinian hijackers intended. The sources said the American pilot at first refused to land in Damascus. He gave in when four Syrian jets began circling the airliner.

According to a Tel Aviv report, Israel fighter planes encircled the hijacked airliner as it approached the Lebanese coast and ordered it to land at Lod, near Tel Aviv, but the hijackers radioed back: “If you force us down, we’ll blow up the plane.” — Agencies

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2019