El Al Flight 253 attack

El Al Flight 253 was an attack on a Boeing 707 en route from Tel Aviv, Israel, to New York City, United States.

El Al Flight 253
A similar Boeing 707
Terrorist Incident
DateDecember 26, 1968
SummaryTerrorist attack
SiteAthens, Greece
Aircraft typeBoeing 707
OperatorEl Al
Flight originTel Aviv, Israel
StopoverAthens, Greece
DestinationNew York City, New York, United States


Two PLO members attacked the plane as it was about to depart from a layover in Athens, Greece on December 26, 1968. One passenger, Israeli Leon Shirdan, 50, of Haifa, a marine engineer, was shot dead. He was survived by his wife and then 15-year-old daughter. Two unidentified women were injured, one by a bullet, the other as she leaped from the jet when the door was opened. The two terrorists were 19-year-old Naheb H. Suleiman, born in Tripoli, Libya, of Palestinian parents, and 25-year-old Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammad, born in 1943 in Mandatory Palestine. They were members of the Lebanese-based militant organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.[1] The two dashed out of the transit lounge of Athens Airport just as the Israeli plane, parked 200 yards away, was preparing to take off. The plane had flown in earlier from Tel Aviv. Mahmoud Mohammed Issa Mohammed fired at the plane for more than a minute with a submachine gun, killing one; while the other threw two hand grenades, creating panic aboard the plane carrying 10 crew members and 41 passengers. The two men were taken into custody by Greek authorities. Mahmoud Mohammed Issa Mohammad, was sentenced to 17 years and 5 months in prison. He was freed after less than 4 months after another Palestinian terrorist group hijacked a Greek airliner and demanded his release. Subsequently, he successfully hid his terrorist past and emigrated to Canada. Once Canadian authorities learned of his crime, a protracted extradition process culminated in his extradition to Lebanon in 2013.[2]

At the time of the event, the plane was damaged. The two men confessed they were members of a Palestinian organization and had planned to destroy the jet and kill all Israeli passengers aboard. The two men had arrived on an earlier Olympic Airways flight from Cairo. 37 of the 41 passengers boarded the flight in Tel Aviv, and four boarded in Athens.[3]

The incident came five months after a group of self-styled Palestinian Arab commandos hijacked another El Al airliner, shortly after takeoff from Rome for Tel Aviv on July 23 and forced it to fly to Algiers. Algeria eventually released all passengers and crewmen and the plane.


Two days after the attack, Israel raided the Beirut International Airport, destroying 12 (or possible 13) Lebanese passenger airplanes. The attack drew a sharp rebuke from the US, who stated that nothing suggested that the Lebanese authorities had anything to do with the El Al attack.[4]


  1. ^ "Should states be strictly liable for failing to prevent trans-border terrorism? A critique of Farouk Umar Abdumutalab". legality blog. September 12, 2010.
  2. ^ Bell, Philip (13 May 2013). "After 26-year fight, Canada finally deports Palestinian terrorist convicted of attack on Israeli plane". National Post. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
  3. ^ "One Killed by Arabs on New York-Bound Jetliner" (PDF). Watertown Daily Times. December 26, 1968.
  4. ^ Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel, Washington, December 29, 1968: Subject: Israeli Attack on Khaldeh Airport.