Peres: Claims Shin Bet involved in 1976 hijacking 'baseless'

June 1, 2007 12:23
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Vice Premier Shimon Peres vehently rejected claims Saturday that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) may have been involved in the hijacking of an Air France plane in 1976 by Palestinian terrorists Peres, who was defense minister at the time of the hijacking and Entebbe rescue, said the claims which emerged in newly declassified British government documents on Friday, were so outrageously baseless that they did not merit comment. Some 100 passengers were held by hijackers at Entebbe airport in Uganda during an eight-day ordeal that concluded when General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal) troops stormed the building where the captives were held. Twenty-four people died in the shoot-out, including three hostages, 20 Ugandans and the commander of the rescue team, Yoni Netanyahu, brother of current opposition head Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud). The hijackers, from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the German Baader-Meinhof gang, demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners. But according to the newly released documents, the Shin Bet and the PFLP are alleged to have teamed up in an "unholy alliance" in an attempt to change foreign policy in the Middle East. The allegation appeared in a document written by official DH Colvin at the British embassy in Paris, quoting a contact at the Euro-Arab Parliamentary Association, as the crisis unfolded. "According to his information, the hijack was the work of the PFLP, with help from the Israeli Secret Service, the Shin Bet," he wrote. "The operation was designed to torpedo the PLO's (Palestine Liberation Organization) standing in France and to prevent what they see as a growing rapprochement between the PLO and the Americans. "Their nightmare is that... one will witness the imposition in the Middle East of a Pax Americana, which will be to the advantage of the PLO (who will gain international respectability and perhaps the right to establish a state on evacuated territories) and to the disadvantage of the Refusal Front (who will be squeezed right out in any overall peace settlement and will lose their raison d'etre) and Israel who will be forced to evacuate occupied territory. Hence the unholy alliance of the hijacking." The document also suggested that then Ugandan president Idi Amin may have been collaborating with the hijackers. The document was released by the National Archives in London.

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