The First Israeli Plane Hijacking
You've probably heard of the Entebbe plane hijacking, or the Sabena hijacking, you know, the one where Bibi was shot in the arm by friendly fire? But do you know when the first Israeli plane hijacking took place?
The year was 1968. One year after the great victories of the Six-Day War. Israel was still in a euphoric state, while the Palestinians were coming up with ways to battle Israel in order to retrieve their lands that were conquered in the war.
Several months earlier, George Habash and Dia Hadad, both Palestinian doctors, established the Ha'zit Ha'amamit, an organization whose purpose was to free the Palestinian lands through armed battle. They decided to turn the Palestinian struggle into an international struggle, and this is where our story begins.
On July 22, 1968, an El Al flight from London made a stop in Rome, and from there it took off towards its destination, Tel Aviv. Several minutes into takeoff, three terrorists that managed to board the flight broke into the cockpit and took control over the plane. The plane was diverted to Algeria and landed several hours later.
After the landing, all the non-Israeli passengers were released, and four days later, all Israeli women and children were released. Seven of the flight crew members and five more Israeli passengers were held captive in an Algerian police base near the airport. Surprised the Algerians cooperated with the terrorists? Well, don't be. We aren't such good friends, even to this day. The terrorists demanded that Israel should release Palestinian prisoners it held captive in Israel in exchange for the Israeli hostages.
This is probably that part where you're expecting to hear about a heroic military operation, where Israeli forces broke into the prison and released all of the hostages right? Well, not this time. After lengthy negotiations, and after the International Pilot Association boycotted all flights to Algeria for three days, Israel agreed to release 24 Palestinians that had no blood on their hands. In return, the hostages were released on August 13, and the saga came to an end.
This hijacking brought on a series of Palestinian plane hijackings, some more successful than others. One thing for sure is at this point, Israel had to reorganize all of its aerial security, and security measures were tightened. To this day, Israel's areal security is known as one of the strictest and best of its kind in the world. We wouldn't say we have the hijackers to thank for that exactly, but they definitely had everything to do with it.
Oh, and by the way, the IDF had begun planning a release operation as soon as it heard of the hijacking, but the operation was never authorized. So don't think we weren't ready.