367. Editorial Note

On December 26, 1968, two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine attacked an Israeli El Al aircraft in the airport in Athens, Greece, with automatic weapons and grenades. One passenger was killed and a crew member was injured in the attack; both were Israeli citizens. The plane caught fire and was severely damaged. The two men who launched the attack were captured and jailed by the Greek Government. The Popular Front issued a statement from its office in Beirut taking responsibility for the attack. Prime Minister Eshkol denounced the assault as a murderous attack on innocent civilians, and the Israeli press noted that the terrorists had come from Lebanon. (Telegram 6618 from Tel Aviv, December 27; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR)

Israel held Lebanon responsible for the actions of a group based on Lebanese soil and retaliated with an attack on December 28 on Beirut International Airport. An estimated 45 Israeli commandos landed in 4 helicopters and attacked planes and facilities at the airport with grenades and machine guns for 20 minutes before withdrawing. Thirteen Lebanese-owned aircraft were destroyed. (Memorandum for the Record by Rear Admiral Robert Baughan, Deputy Director for Operations of the National Military Command Center, December 28; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel, Vol. XI, Cables and Memos, 12/68–1/69)