Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Mourns Female Plane Hijacker

Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah have publish an obituary to Therese Halasa, a former terrorist who helped hijack a plane in 1972:

Her cousin wrote this about her a few years ago:

My cousin Therese hijacked a Boeing 707. On May 8, 1972, she boarded Sabena Flight 571, scheduled to fly from Brussels to Tel Aviv. She wore a girdle stuffed with two and a half kilos of high explosives. She later made the bizarre claim that she wore it for her bad back. She had used similar girdles to ease the suffering of patients while she was a student nurse at the English Hospital in Nazareth. Her father told the Jerusalem Post that everyone in their home town of Acre knew that Therese suffered from agonizing back pain. Back pain runs in our family and has been made an excuse for all kinds of wild behavior, but nobody before Therese had tried to use it to hijack a plane.

In 1972, she was 18 years old. She was not typically beautiful; her broad, plain features ran on my father’s side of our family, and like many Arab young women her age, she felt the social pressure to get married. The Munich massacres were still to come, and hijacking was much in vogue. For the guerrilla group Al Fatah, or any of the other terrorist groups joined under the umbrella of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), there was gold to be mined in the skies above their heads. Two months earlier, Ali Taha Abu Snina, whose code name was Kamal Rafat, the “captain” or senior officer in charge of Therese’s hijacking, had secured a $5 million ransom from the West German government for a Lufthansa B-747 that had been hijacked and forced to land in South Yemen while en route from New Delhi to Athens.

To match the girdle Therese wore, like a revolutionary’s twinset, a battery-operated detonator in her bra. She had also concealed a hand grenade in a box of talcum powder in her carry-on luggage.

When she left Beirut the first week of May, no one had bothered to tell her what her mission would be. Three months training in an Al Fatah camp had taught her to obey orders. But she had an inkling that she would be involved in “some sort of hijack operation or an act of sabotage against the Jews or maybe the Americans.” A clue was provided by Abdul Aziz Al-Atrash, a member of her revolutionary cell, whom she knew only by the name in his stolen Israeli passport, Zachariah; when they flew together from Beirut, he asked if she would be afraid if they attempted to seize an airplane. He called her by her code name, Samira.


On Monday afternoon, May 8, the men in Therese’s cell, armed with automatic weapons, and the women, wearing girdles full of explosives and carrying grenades — Rima, the only other woman with Therese, had hidden hers in her vanity makeup case — waited in line to be searched at Brussels Airport. Back then, security was practically nonexistent, and the group had already successfully smuggled several kilos of high explosives, two grenades, and two automatic weapons undetected on previous flights. They boarded the aircraft and took their assigned seats, among 65 other passengers, on the flight, whose final destination was to be Tel Aviv. When the plane stopped in Vienna, 25 people came aboard. The flight was nearly full.

Fifteen minutes after takeoff, Therese went to the lavatory, removed her girdle, and extracted her grenade. Rima did the same. Back in the seats, they waited five minutes, after which Zachariah went forward into the cockpit. Rafat and Therese walked to the front of the passengers’ compartment, where Rafat, brandishing his automatic pistol, said in a calm, slightly accented English that they were hijacking the plane. He told them nobody would get hurt as long as they did what they were told. A voice over the loudspeaker announced they were flying over Sarajevo.

At the rear of the plane, Rima was connecting the battery and detonator to the girdles they had taken off. When she was finished, she held a bare wire in each hand near the battery. It had been agreed that, on Rafat’s signal — two thumbs up — she would cross the wires, which would then close the battery circuit and set off the bomb, one of the first uses of the plastic explosive Semtex in a terrorist operation. She shouted out that they were members of Al Fatah, but Rafat interrupted her and said they were Black September.

At 6:55 p.m., 90 minutes after the hijackers had seized control of the plane, Flight 571 landed at Tel Aviv’s busy Lod airport and taxied two kilometers away from the main terminal to an isolated part of the runway, where a fleet of fire engines and ambulances stood by. For the next three hours, the passengers were not allowed to move from their seats. Negotiations had begun.

Over the cockpit radio, Rafat read out a list of the names of 106 Palestinian prisoners he wanted in exchange for the passengers. It was to be a straightforward transaction, but the reactions of the Israeli negotiator, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, and the man behind him, Transport Minister Shimon Peres, caught Rafat off guard. The Israelis didn’t believe the hijacker.

Rafat put the aircraft’s pilot, Reginald Levy, on the radio. Levy had served in the British Royal Air Force and recognized a bomb when he saw one. “I want you to know that all the technical arrangements to blow up the plane are made.” He added, with emphasis, “And made properly.”

Finally, Rafat received the news he had been waiting for. The Palestinian prisoners had been put onto another Boeing 707 that would soon join them on the runway. Elated, the hijackers kissed and hugged each other. In jaunty Sabena crew hats, Therese and Rima went up and down the aisle, shaking hands with non-Jewish passengers.

Their celebrations were premature. There was another Boeing, but instead of Palestinian detainees, Dayan had filled it with 36 volunteers dressed in prison uniforms. While three Red Cross delegates chatted with Rafat through the cockpit window, eighteen mechanics arrived on two trolleys alongside Flight 571.

The mechanics were a team of Israeli soldiers, headed by Ehud Barak, who would go on to become the prime minister of Israel. Without warning, they took out guns hidden in their boots and stormed the aircraft. Within two minutes, Rafat and Zachariah were shot dead. More soldiers, rushing through the plane’s side emergency exits, fatally wounded 22-year-old passenger Miriam Anderson. Before Rima could set off the bomb at the back of the plane, a passenger grabbed her hand.

Therese was shot in the armpit by one of the soldiers who had entered through a rear passenger door. The bullet went through her and into the upper arm of another soldier, Benjamin Netanyahu, (the current prime minister of Israel). When he grabbed Therese by the hair, her wig came off. The bullet had severed one of Therese’s arteries. She was bleeding profusely, but she was not allowed to die. As the hostages slid down a wing to safety, Therese was taken to Sheba Hospital and given blood transfusions.

As reported in the press: when she recovered consciousness a day later and was told where she was and that her life had been saved, she said, “Now that I have been given Jewish blood, I want to become Jewish.”

She of course never did become Jewish. But here’s another interesting fact: she had been a member of the Israeli Communist Party before joining the terrorists.

And now she is being mourned by those who the international community – and even many Israelis – would have you believe are our “peace partners.”


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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