Negotiations and Another Hijacking
September 7-12, 1970
September 7, morning
Fourth Plane Destroyed
After circling over Cairo for two hours, the Pan Am jumbo jet lands at 2:23 am. The passengers and crew frantically evacuate moments before the plane explodes. Egyptian police arrest the terrorists on the scene.
In the morning, leaders of the organization behind the hijackings, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (P.L.F.P.), issue their demand: Palestinian militants held in Germany, Switzerland, England and Israel must be released within 72 hours or the hostages will be killed. The P.F.L.P. includes the United States in the group of governments it will negotiate with in hopes of softening Israel's response.
September 7, midday
By noon the Jordanian army has successfully negotiated with the terrorists for the release of 127 women and children in exchange for a pullback of Jordanian forces.
Some Non-Jewish Hostages Freed
In the afternoon, the freed women and children arrive at the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman, Jordan. They cannot leave the hotel; the terrorists have their passports. All Jewish men, women and children are kept on the planes.
September 7, evening
The terrorists transfer three U.S. government employees, two rabbis, and another Jewish man from Revolution Airport to a secret location 100 miles away in case the Israelis try to mount a rescue operation.
Civil War Crossfire
In Amman, hostages at the Intercontinental Hotel are caught in the crossfire between the Jordanian army and Palestinian guerrillas, as the threat of civil war grows.
The U.S. Response
President Richard Nixon assembles his advisers to discuss an American response to the hijackings. He later calls Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird and instructs him to bomb the terrorists. Laird claims the weather is not favorable for an air strike. He will later admit that he was opposed to any military action and used the weather as an excuse.
Terrorists' Press Conference
In the afternoon, the terrorists hold a press conference at Revolution Airport. Reporters are allowed to photograph and film while the hostages answer questions shouted over a 20-foot gap. The hostages describe generally good conditions and fair treatment.
A Fifth Hijacking
Three days after the initial hijackings, the British government confirms that there are no British citizens among the hostages taken on September 6. It's a moot point. Shortly after lunch is served on BOAC flight 775, three Palestinian militants skyjack the British VC-10, en route from Bahrain to London via Beirut, with 105 passengers and ten crew members.
In the afternoon, BOAC Flight 775 lands in Beirut to refuel, before continuing on to Revolution Airport.
In the evening, the VC-10 lands at Revolution Airport, next to the two previously hijacked planes. The Palestinians now hold over two hundred hostages at the desert airstrip.
After the BOAC plane lands at Revolution Airport in the evening, the terrorists extend the deadline for meeting their demands until Sunday, September 13. Meanwhile, Palestinians continue to battle King Hussein's troops just outside the hotel where the freed hostages are staying.
U.S. Troops on Alert
Nixon ratchets up the U.S. response, putting the 82nd Airborne Division on "semialert" and deploying transport planes to a US Air Force base in Adana, Turkey, to facilitate the evacuation of Americans.
U.S. Naval Support
The U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet stands by off the coast of Lebanon, ready to assist in potential hostage rescue operations.
The Palestinian terrorists move over twenty hostages from Revolution Airport to the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman. They also return passports to many of the freed hostages still at the hotel.
Aircraft Blown Up
The P.F.L.P. guerrillas evacuate the remaining hostages from Revolution Airport. They blow up the three aircraft simultaneously. Many hostages are released, but more than 50 Jewish passengers and all male crew members are kept as "political prisoners."