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Dawson’s Field Hijackings – World History – Free PDF

BACKGROUND

  • PFLP leader George Habash had planned the hijackings with Wadi Haddad, his lieutenant, in July 1970, when Jordan and Egypt agreed to a cease-fire with Israel.
  • Habash was in North Korea (on his way home from Beijing), on a shopping trip for weapons, when the hijackings took place.
  • That created confusion over what the hijackers were demanding, as they had no clear spokesman.

BACKGROUND

  • The PFLP then submitted a formal list of demands that called for the release of Palestinian and Arab prisoners in European and Israeli jails. There were about 3,000 Palestinian and other Arab individuals in Israeli jails at the time. Over three weeks, hostages were released in trickles–and the hijackers’ demands were met.
  • On Sept. 30, Britain, Switzerland and West Germany agree to release seven Arab guerillas, including Leila Khaled, the El Al Flight 219 hijacker. Israel also released two Algerians and 10 Libyans. • PLO leader Yasser Arafat seized on the hijackings to go on the offensive in Jordan–against King Hussein, who nearly abdicated his throne.

 HIJACKING

  • On Sept. 6, 1970, terrorists belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) almost simultaneously hijacked three jetliners shortly after they took off from European airports on routes toward the United States.
  • When hijackers on one plane were foiled, hijackers seized a fourth jet, diverted it to Cairo, and blew it up. The two other hijacked planes were ordered to a desert airstrip in Jordan known as Dawson Field.
  • Three days later, PFLP hijackers seized another jet and diverted it to the desert strip, which the hijackers called Revolution Field.
  • Most of the 421 passengers and crew on board the three planes in Jordan were freed on Sept. 11, but hijackers held on to 56 hostages, most of them Jewish and American men, and blew up the three jets on Sept. 12.

5 PLANES

  • PFLP hijackers seized a total of five planes during their September 1970 operation.
  • Sept. 6: El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York, a Boeing 707 carrying 142 passengers and crew. It was Hijacked by Patrick Argüello, a Nicaraguan American doctor, and Leila Khaled, a Palestinian.
  • An Israeli air marshal and passengers on the plane subdued the hijackers, killing Argüello. The plane landed safely in London. British authorities released Khaled on Sept. 30 as part of a deal for the release of hostages held in Jordan.

 5 PLANES

  • Sept. 6: Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight 741, en route from Frankfurt to New York, a Boeing 707 carrying 149 passengers and crew. Hijackers renamed the plane Gaza One and ordered it to the Jordanian airstrip. It was blown up on Sept. 12.
  • Sept. 6: Swissair Flight 100 from Zurich to New York, a DC-8 with 155 passengers and crew. It was over France when hijackers seized it, renamed it Haifa One, and ordered it to Dawson Field in Jordan. It was blown up on Sept. 12.
  • Sept. 6: Pan American Flight 93, a 747 taking off from Amsterdam and carrying 173 passengers and crew, was ordered to fly to Beirut, even though the international airport there didn’t have a runway for 747s. One more PFLP member, an explosives expert, boarded the plane in Beirut. The hijackers then ordered it flown to Cairo, where it landed at 4:23 a.m. and was blown up shortly afterward

 5 PLANES

  • Sept. 9: BOAC Flight 775 from Bombay to London, a VC-10, was seized while flying over Lebanon. FLP hijackers said they had seized the plane as a ransom for the release of Leila Khaled, the foiled hijacker aboard the El Al plane. The BOAC plane carried 117 passengers and crew. It was allowed to land in Beirut, where it refueled, then flew to Dawson Field in Jordan to join the two other hijacked jets there.

AFTERMATH

  • On 7 September 1970, the hijackers held a press conference for 60 members of the media who had made their way to what was being called “Revolution Airport.”
  • About 125 hostages were transferred to Amman, while the American, Israeli, Swiss, and West German citizens were held on the planes.
  • They claimed that the goal of the hijackings was “to gain the release of all of our political prisoners jailed in Israel in exchange for the hostages.

” AFTERMATH

  • In contrast, British Prime Minister Edward Heath decided to negotiate with the hijackers, ultimately agreeing to release Khaled and others in exchange for hostages. This was bitterly opposed by the United States.
  • On 9 September the United Nations Security Council demanded the release of the passengers, in Resolution 286.
  • The following day, fighting between the PFLP and Jordanian forces erupted in Amman at the Intercontinental Hotel, where the 125 women and children were being kept by the PFLP, and the Kingdom appeared to be on the brink of full-scale civil war.

AFTERMATH

  • King Hussein declared martial law on 16 September and initiated the military actions later known as the Black September conflict.
  • About two weeks after the start of the crisis, the remaining hostages were recovered from locations around Amman and exchanged for Leila Khaled and several other PFLP prisoners.
  • The PFLP officially disavowed the tactic of airline hijackings several years later, although several of its members and subgroups continued to hijack aircraft and commit other violent operations.

 

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