This Week in EUCOM History: May 7-13, 1972
Sabena Flight 571 was a scheduled passenger flight from Vienna to Tel Aviv operated by the Belgian national airline, Sabena. On May 8, 1972 a Boeing 707 passenger aircraft operating that service was hijacked by four terrorists from the Black September organization and landed at Lod Airport (later Ben Gurion International Airport) near Lod.

May 8, 1972 -- Four Black September terrorists hijack Sabena Flight 571

Sabena Flight 571 was a scheduled passenger flight from Vienna to Tel Aviv operated by the Belgian national airline, Sabena. On May 8, 1972 a Boeing 707 passenger aircraft operating that service was hijacked by four terrorists from the Black September organization and landed at Lod Airport (later Ben Gurion International Airport) near Lod.

The hijackers demanded the release of 315 convicted Palestinian terrorists who were imprisoned in Israel, and threatened to blow up the airplane with its passengers.

As this incident occurred within EUCOM’s AOR, the command was on alert and stood ready to assist Israeli forces in any rescue or recovery effort.

On May 9 at 4 p.m. the rescue operation began: a team of 16 Sayeret Matkal commandos, led by Ehud Barak and including Benjamin Netanyahu, both future Israeli Prime Ministers, approached the airplane. The commandos were disguised as airplane technicians in white overalls, and were able to convince the terrorists that the aircraft needed repair. The commandos stormed the aircraft and took control of the plane in ten minutes, killing both male hijackers and capturing the two women. All the passengers were rescued. Three of the passengers, however, were wounded in the takeover, with one female passenger eventually dying from her wounds. Netanyahu was wounded during the rescue, presumably by friendly fire.

The two female surviving terrorists were sentenced to life imprisonment, but were later freed as part of a prisoner exchange following the 1982 Lebanon War.

The hijacked airplane itself continued to be operated by Sabena for another five years before being purchased by Israel Aircraft Industries. They eventually sold the airplane to the Israeli Air Force, where it served as a spy plane for many years and participated in most of the Air Force's long range operations.

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