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1968 PFLP Hijacking of El Al Flight

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What Happened:

On July 22, 1968, an El Al Israel Airlines plan departing from Rome and headed for Tel Aviv, Israel, was hijacked by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine(PFLP). They successfully diverted the plane, carrying 32 passengers and 10 crew members, to Algiers. Most of the passengers were released relatively quickly, but for seven crew members and five Israeli male passengers, who were held hostage for five weeks. After 40 days of negotiation, the Israelis agreed to the exchange.

Why?:

The PFLP, a Palestinian nationalist organization with different ideological outlooks at different times (from Arab nationalist,to Maoist, to Leninist) sought to use spectacular tactics to bring world wide attention to Palestinian dispossession. They also sought an exchange of Palestinian militants held prisoner in Israeli prisons for the Israeli men they hostage.

What Made the Hijacking Notable?:

  • The 1968 bombing was the first time that the PFLP,or any Palestinian group, hijacked a plane. This spectacular form of terrorism, designed to get global attention, would become a regular occurrence over the next several years.
  • The 1968 bombing was the first time that an El Al flight was hijacked. El Al is Israel's major commercial carrier. Following the hijacking, El Al became extremely security-conscious and instituted the first baggage check program.
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