Middle East History: It Happened in December; Israel Was First Nation to Skyjack A Civilian Airliner

By Neff, Donald | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 1994 | Go to article overview

Middle East History: It Happened in December; Israel Was First Nation to Skyjack A Civilian Airliner


Neff, Donald, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


MIDDLE EAST HISTORY: IT HAPPENED IN DECEMBER; Israel Was First Nation to Skyjack A Civilian Airliner

By Donald Neff

It was 40 years ago that Israel conducted the first skyjacking of a civilian airliner. On Dec. 12, 1954, Israeli warplanes forced a Syrian Airways Dakota passenger craft carrying four passengers and five crewmen to land at Lydda airport inside Israel. 1 The passengers were interrogated for two days before international protests, including strong complaints from Washington, finally convinced Israel to release the plane and its passengers. 2

Moshe Sharett, who as Israel's foreign minister had to explain the incident to the international community, was privately appalled by it. He recorded in his diary: "I have no reason to doubt the truth of the factual affirmation of the U.S. State Department that our action was without precedent in the history of international practice. What shocks and worries me is the narrow-mindedness and the short-sightedness of our military leaders. They seem to presume that the state of Israel may--or even must--behave in the realm of international relations according to the laws of the jungle." 3

The purpose of the unprecedented skyjacking, according to Sharett, was Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan's ambition "to get hostages in order to obtain the release of our prisoners in Damascus." 4 The reference was to an incident that had occurred four days earlier. Five Israeli soldiers were captured retrieving tapping devices on Syrian telephone lines on the Golan Heights inside Syria. Israel expressed outrage at the imprisonment of the soldiers but Syria refused to release them. 5

Israeli passions were riled even further the next month when one of the Israeli soldiers, Uri Ilan, son of a former Mapam member of parliament, committed suicide in jail on Jan. 13, 1955. Although the Israeli press loudly charged Syria with torture, an examination by the United Nations showed "no signs of physical ill-treatment." 6

But still Syria refused to release the prisoners, pointing out that Israel was holding Syrian civilians prisoner. The impasse contributed to an even graver incident toward the end of the year. On Dec. 11, 1955, Israel sent two paratroop battalions backed by artillery and mortar batteries under the command of Ariel Sharon, later Israel's defense minister, against Syrian military posts at Buteiha Farm and Koursi near the northeast shore of Lake Tiberias.

It was Israel's largest military raid inside Syria up to that time and resulted in 56 Syrian deaths, including three women, and nine wounded. Significantly Israel also took 30 prisoners, whom it later used as hostages to exchange for the four Israelis held by Syria. 7 The United States expressed its "shock" at the raid and supported a resolution by the United Nations Security Council that unanimously condemned Israel for its "flagrant violation" of the armistice agreement. 8

French Ambassador to the U.N. Herve Alphand observed that the condemnation resolution of Israel was "the strongest ever passed by the council." 9 It was the fifth time the council had condemned, censured, called on and otherwise passed resolutions critical of Israel.

"Our action was without precedent in the history of international practice."

Israel insisted the raid was simply in retaliation for Syrian troops firing at an Israeli patrol boat on Lake Tiberias the previous day, in which there had been no casualties. But the explanation was widely disbelieved. Canadian General E.L.M. Burns, the chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization, bluntly wrote:

"No one with any knowledge of military affairs would believe that such an elaborate, coordinated attack had not been planned well before, and probably rehearsed. Certainly it was not improvised in a few hours....The reasons given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' statement were only an excuse, and not a very good one." 10

In fact, like most major actions in the Middle East, there was far more than just retaliation behind the raid. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Middle East History: It Happened in December; Israel Was First Nation to Skyjack A Civilian Airliner
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.