Palestinian woman Laila Khalid, who hijacked Israeli aircraft

Palestinian woman Laila Khalid, who hijacked Israeli aircraft

The day of 29 August 1969. A 25-year-old woman, dressed in a white suit and sunhat and wearing large sunglasses, was waiting for flight TWA 840 at Rome airport.

She was very nervous from inside. This young lady, who looks like Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn, managed to get a pistol and two hand grenades inside by flaunting the airport security.

She was trying to show that she does not recognize Salim Isavi, another person sitting in the waiting lounge. The man was an important member of the Che Guara Kamando unit of the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine and the girl’s name was Laila Khalid. Laila Khalid flew alone from Beirut to Rome.

Laila and her partner Isavi intentionally booked their seats in the first class to make it easier for them to reach the cockpit of the aircraft.

Laila Khalid writes in her autobiography ‘My People Shell Live’, published in 1973, ‘Since I and Isavi were seated separately, a Greek American living in Chicago became more interested in me.’

Laila Khalid

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‘He told me that he was going to Greece to meet his mother after 15 years living in America. At one time, it came to my heart that I should ask him to leave this aircraft and catch another plane, but then I stopped myself.

Laila Khalid and Isavi reach the cockpit

The planes of Laila Khalid and Salim Isavi were around in the plane. Airhostess served Laila the coffee and Isavi served beer. But after this, Laila Khalid did not eat anything despite the loudness of the airhostess.

Rather, he told the airhostess that he is feeling cold and he has a stomach ache, so you give me an extra blanket. As soon as the blanket was found, Laila placed her hand grenade and pistol under the blanket so that she could be reached easily.

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In an interview to ‘Shoot the Women First’ writer Eileen McDonald, Laila Khalid says, “As soon as the aircraft workers started serving food, Salim jumped up and reached the cockpit. Following her, I also ran with a hand grenade on my lap. In this affair, the tray fell down from the hand of the air hostess and she shouted loudly. Then the pistol stuck in my waist fell from the inside of my pants and fell on the floor of the plane. I and Isavi shouted that all the first class passengers and aircraftmen should go to the economy class.

Laila Khalid

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Layla orders the plane to be taken to Israel

In this hijacking, Laila Khalid was given the role of talking to the pilot and air traffic control. Initially, Laila asked the pilot to take the plane to Lod Airport in Israel. It is now called the David Ben Gurri Airport.

As the aircraft entered the Israeli region, three Israeli Mirage aircraft started flying on both sides of it. Due to this, panic spread among the passengers sitting on the plane. They thought that Israeli aircraft would kill their aircraft.

Laila Khalid

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Laila Khalid contacted Lod’s Air Traffic Control and said that now you will address us as Flight PFLP Free Arab Palestine and not Flight TWA 840. The pilot of the aircraft had previously refused to accept Laila’s instructions, but when Laila showed him his hand grenade, he stopped protesting.

The plane was diverted towards Damascus

The order to go towards Lod was only to flaunt the Israelis. The plane passed over Lod. Hundreds of Israeli soldiers and tanks stood ready to deal with them below. Then Laila Khalid ordered the pilot to take the plane to Damascus.

On the way, he told the pilot that he flew over his birthplace Haifa.

Laila Khalid

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Later Laila Khalid wrote in her autobiography, ‘When I saw Palestine from above, for a minute I forgot that I am part of a campaign. This desire arose in my mind that I should shout to my grandmother, my sows and everyone who is there that we are coming back. Later, the pilot also said that when we were flying over the Haifa, he saw my face movements standing up.

Laila Khalid

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The plane was blown up by explosives

After landing at Damascus Airport, Salim Isavi put explosive material in the cockpit of the aircraft and blew it up. According to him, this was the most effective way to attract the attention of the Palestinian people to the world.

Laila Khalid is often credited with being the first female hijacker, but few people know that a hijacker who hijacked a plane to the Falkland Islands three years ago in 1966 from the Condors Organization was also a woman.

Eileen McDonald writes in her book Shoot the Women First, ‘The leadership of the PFLP was very pleased with the publicity from this hijacking. He sent his star comrade Laila Khalid on a tour of the Middle-East countries. They knew that Israelis could do anything to kidnap and kill Laila Khalid, but even then she was sent to travel to Arab countries. But a protective shield of bodyguards was deployed around them. Laila Khalid had become a heroine in the Arab world.

Facial plastic surgery

After this, Laila Khalid underwent plastic surgery at six places on her nose, cheeks, eyes and mouth so that her arms could be changed and she could be prepared for another hijacking.

In September 1970, Laila Khalid moved from Lebanon to Europe. On September 4, in Stuttgart, Germany, he met Patrick Arguello, who was to accompany him in the next hijacking. Both of them had never met each other before. On 6 September, both of them took a ticket to New York and went to Amsterdam with Stuttgart.

Laila Khalid

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Arguelo was an Nicaguan born in America. In Amsterdam, both of them boarded the Boeing 707 aircraft of the Israeli Airlines ELAI 219 going to New York. Sarah Irving writes in her book ‘Laila Khalid Icon of Palestinian Liberation’, ‘When these two boarded the plane, they did not know that two of their companions who had to help them in this hijacking, ELAI staff gave seats. Was refused.

While planning for hijacking, it was decided that hijacking of ELAI aircraft would require more than two people as armed security guards are present in their aircraft and three people are searched in the aircraft. . ‘

Laila Khalid

Image source, PLUTO PRESS

The pilot closed the cockpit door

This time Laila Khalid and her partner were sitting in economy class. Laila Khalid said while speaking to the BBC that ‘Argulo knew what he had to do and I knew what I had to do. We had our weapons. I had two hand grenades. Patrick also had a handgrenade. I was wearing a very short skirt. I hid all the maps inside that skirt.

When Khalid ran towards the cockpit, the pilot had already locked his door inside. David Raab writes in his book ‘Terror in Black September’, ‘Laila Khalid took out both hand grenades from her specially made bra, but only then the marshals on board the aircraft started firing. Patrick fired back which hit Marshal Shlomo Wider. Meanwhile Patrick was also shot. Khalid was attacked by two guards and passengers. People started killing him, which broke many of his ribs.

Laila Khalid

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Marshal started firing

Meanwhile, the clever pilot suddenly dived down the plane, causing Laila Khalid to unbalance and fall down. This had no effect on the passengers as their seat belts were tied. The aircraft came down significantly, eliminating the possibility that even if the grenade exploded, the cabin would not be depressurized and there would be minimal damage.

Talking to BBC, Laila Khalid told what was going on them at that time. ‘Half an hour later we stood up and I tried to remove the pin of the hand grenade from my teeth. As soon as we stood up and shouted, the security personnel started firing from behind. I saw that someone was watching us with the magic eye of the cockpit.

‘I warned them that I would count to three. If you have not opened the cockpit door by then, I will blow the ship. But I did not want to fly the plane. He did not open the door. After a few moments someone hit my head from behind and I fainted.

Emergency landing in london

Laila Khalid writes in her autobiography, ‘I saw a marshal standing on the waist of a blood-soaked Argulo and fired four bullets in his back.’

Concerned over the condition of injured Marshal Shlomo Wider, the ELAI pilot made an emergency landing in London. In a few moments another ELAI aircraft was about to take off from London’s Heathrow Airport.

David Raab writes in his book ‘Terror in Black September’, ‘Marshal Bar Levav, who shot Argulo, was unloaded from the ship’s hatch and boarded another ELAI aircraft so that it would fly out of British jurisdiction and be sent to Argulo’s Do not be held responsible for death. Laila Khaled was tied down with the help of the tiers of some passengers and was forced to lie on the floor of the plane. Laila Khaled had a good luck that the Israeli security forces did not arrest her and the British police arrested her.

Laila Khalid

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As soon as the plane landed, Patrick Argulo’s body was transported in an ambulance. Laila Khaled writes in her autobiography ‘My People Shell Live’, ‘I requested the security personnel to open my hands’.

‘I stood next to Patrick’s body and held his hand. I took stock of her injuries and kissed her lips in the spirit of friendship and then I cried. It was very sad for me because I was thinking that I had to die instead, because it was our fight. He came to help us.

Good behavior in jail

Laila Khalid was taken to Ealing Police Station in London where she was questioned by Chief Superintendent David Preeu for the next few days. Laila was treated well in jail. Some women policemen also played table tennis with him.

Laila asked for some material to read. When she was given some women’s magazines to read, she refused to take him in anger. Then newspapers were made available to them. Laila was given the bathroom of the station chief to take a bath. Clean clothes and towels were brought for them.

Laila Khalid

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When an attempt was made to seat a female guard in her room, Laila replied angrily, ‘I am not going to kill myself. I have yet to participate in more campaigns.

When Laila Khalid expressed her wish that she wanted to breathe in the open air for some time, she was taken to the top floor of the prison and the windows were opened so that she could enjoy the fresh air. He was allowed to drink six Rothmen cigarettes per day. Many times the policemen also made them available to drink more than six cigarettes.

Hijacking of a British ship to rescue Laila

During the interrogation of Laila Khalid, David Priu informed him that besides the planes of ELAI, Swiss Air, TWA, PANAM and British Air planes have also been hijacked.

On hearing this, Laila Khalid said that there was no plan to hijack British Air aircraft. Frieu told him that on 9 September, a British Air plane coming from Bahrain to London was hijacked and taken to the Dawson Field in Jordan.

When Laila Khalid asked him what his demand was, Friu replied, he wants your release. On 28 September, policemen saw Laila crying. News of the death of Egyptian President Jamal Abdul Nasser was published in newspapers on that day.

Abdul naser

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Laila Khalid’s release

Eventually, the British government released Laila Khalid in exchange for her 114 captives. After being in British prison for 24 days, on October 1, 1970, a Royal Airforce aircraft carrying Laila Khalid flew to Cairo.

Earlier, all aircraft hijacked on September 12 were blown up with explosives in the Dawson field.

Laila Khalid

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Many years after this incident, the BBC asked Laila Khaled, are you sad about what you did? Laila Khalid’s answer was ‘none at all.’

He was again questioned that ‘because of you, hundreds of passengers aboard the plane got terrorized and they got mental trauma and the steward of the plane was also badly injured?’

Laila Khalid replied, ‘I can apologize that he was shocked but he was finally safe. The purpose of this action was not to harm them. But you should also see that as a human, we and our human rights were also ignored. ”

Laila Khalid

Image source, Getty Images

77-year-old Laila Khalid is currently living in Amman. He is married to a doctor, Fayaz Rashid Hilal, with whom he has two children, Badar and Bashar.

Looking at them, now no one can say that these women were once the biggest postergirl of the Palestinian struggle, wearing a Czech kafaya at one time and a 47 in hand.

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