On 22 July 1970, Olympic Airways Flight 255 was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists over Rhodes, Greece, after it had taken off from Beirut, Lebanon en route to Athens, Greece. The hijackers demanded and successfully negotiated the release of seven Palestinian terrorists held in Greek prisons.[1]

Olympic Airways Flight 255
An Olympic Airways 727, similar to the one involved in the hijacking.
Date22 July 1970
Siteover Rhodes, Greece
Aircraft typeBoeing 727
OperatorOlympic Airways
Flight originBeirut, Lebanon
DestinationAthens, Greece
Passengers47 (including 6 hijackers)

Hijacking edit

The six-person commando of hijackers, belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and/or the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PSF),[2] demanded the release of seven Palestinians held in Greek prisons for three terrorist incidents, the El Al Flight 253 attack, the attempted hijacking of a TWA flight on 21 December 1969, and the 1969 Athens airline office attack.[3] The hijackers threatened to blow up the plane if their demands were not met.[1]

In response to the hijacking, the owner of the airliner, Aristotle Onassis, flew to Athens, and along with Stylianos Pattakos, the Greek Deputy Premier and Interior Minister, and Justice Minister Anghelos Tsou, attempted to negotiate with the hijackers, with all three offering to exchange themselves as hostages with the passengers.[1][4] While their offers were rejected, it was through the mediation of the International Red Cross representative André Rochat at the Athens Airport,[1][2] that the Greek government eventually announced eight hours after the plane had landed that all the terrorists would be released within one month, while announcing that it had received assurances from Arab diplomats that Greece would never again be used for terrorist activities.[1][3]

While the passengers were released in Athens, the hijackers subsequently ordered the flight flown to Cairo, Egypt with five crew members[5] and Rochat who had voluntarily offered himself as a captive as a voucher for the promised release of the seven terrorists.[2] The hijackers were greeted at the Cairo Airport by President Gamal Abdel Nasser and given a hero's welcome.[6] The plane was returned to Athens the next day.[1] The terrorists held in Greek prisons were eventually released in August,[6] despite objections from the Israeli government.[7]

The submission of the Greek government to the hijackers' demands have been said to have encouraged a number of further hijackings,[3] notably including the Dawson's Field hijackings later the same year.[8]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Athens Agrees to Free 7 After Arabs Seize Airliner". The New York Times. 23 July 1970.
  2. ^ a b c Terrorism in the Cold War: State Support in the West, Middle East and Latin America. Bloomsbury. 2020. pp. 98–99. ISBN 9780755600281.
  3. ^ a b c Choi, Jin-Tai; Munson, Robert B. (1993). Aviation Terrorism: Historical Survey, Perspectives and Responses. Springer. p. 46. ISBN 9781349231751.
  4. ^ "On Ari's scorpion-shaped island". Daily News. 29 January 1976. p. 376.
  5. ^ "Arab Terrorists Seize Airliner; Demand Release of Seven Terrorists Jailed, on Trial". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 23 July 1970.
  6. ^ a b "Greek Government Releases Seven Arab Terrorists Who Had Been Sentenced to Prison". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 14 August 1970.
  7. ^ "Eban Repeats Demand That Greece Not Release Terrorists; Probing Role of Red Cross". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 29 July 1970.
  8. ^ Veilleux-Lepage, Yannick (2020). How Terror Evolves: The Emergence and Spread of Terrorist Techniques. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 88. ISBN 9781786608796.