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Lod Airport Massacre

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Palestinian and Japanese terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Japanese Red Army were responsible for the massacre that took place May 30 1972 at Lod (later ben Gurion) airport. This was a memorable and unique act of senseless violence even among Palestinian terror attacks. The attack was carried out by Japanese. Most of the victims were Puerto Rican tourists rather than Israelis. The attack killed the distinguished scientist Aharon Katzir, brother of Ephraim Katzir, who soon became President of Israel. The only perpetrator who was caught and sentenced, Kozo Okamoto, was eventually freed.

Lod Massacre Victim Aharrom Katzir
Aharaon Katzir

On May 30, 1972, a three-man squad of the Japanese Red Army arrived at Lod Airport on Air France Flight 132. They were dressed in business suits and carried what appeared to be violin cases. The operation was planned and supported by the General Command of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP-GC).

As the three men passed the ticket counter area, they suddenly pulled automatic weapons out of their cases and began to shoot the crowd indiscriminately. As they changed magazines in their weapons, the men threw hand grenades into the mass of sprawling bodies. One of the terrorists, Yasuyuki Yasuda, ran out of ammunition and was cut down by his companions. A second terrorist, Tsuyoshi Okudaira, committed suicide by pulling the pin on a grenade and detonating it against his body. The third terrorist, Kozo Okamoto, was captured while attempting to flee from the terminal.

Terrorist Kozo Okamoto
Kozo Okomoto

Twenty-six people were killed in the massacre and 78 were injured. Sixteen of the dead were Puerto Ricans in Israel on a pilgrimage. Kozo Okamoto is the younger brother of Takedia Okamoto, one of the JRA terrorists who hijacked a Japan Airlines flight to North Korea in 1970. Okamoto was sentenced to life imprisonment in Israel. He was released, however, as part of a 1983 prisoner exchange with Palestinian terrorists

Okamoto denied that they had been drugged during the incident by saying:

The only drugs for us are Marxism-Leninism. The world of Che Guevara is the only stimulus we need.

The JRA received considerable training and/or funds from Iran, Libya, Syria, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other Palestinian factions. The Lebanese government and Palestinians have given shelter to Okamoto, who was never re-arrested.

On July 8, 1972, Ghassan Kanafani, Palestinian short story writer and spokesperson for the PFLP, was assassinated in retaliation for the attack. In early 1978, Wadie Haddad, the Palestinian organizer of the attack, was assassinated by the Mossad.

The Lebanese government granted political asylum to Kozo Okamoto, who has been long deemed a hero among Arabs. According to the Lebanese government, he "had participated in resistance operations against Israel and had been tortured in Israeli jails."

Kozo Okamoto is believed to live in an apartment in the suburbs of Beirut, where he leads a quiet life. He is glad when Palestinians come up to him to offer to shake his hand in the street. 

In June 2006, a legislative initiative of Puerto Rico Senator José Garriga Picó, Senate Project (PS) 1535, was approved by unanimous vote of both houses of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico. The bill made May 30 "Lod Massacre Remembrance Day". On August 2, 2006, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, signed it into law as Law 144 August 2, 2006. "Lod Remembrance Day" commemorate the events, honors both those murdered and those who survived, and educates the Puerto Rican public against terrorism.

Victims of the attack:

US citizens of Puerto Rico:

1. Reverend Angel Berganzo 2. Carmela Cintrón 3. Carmen E. Crespo 4. Vírgen Flores 5. Esther González 6. Blanca González de Pérez 7. Carmen Guzmán 8. Eugenia López 9. Enrique Martínez Rivera 10. Vasthy Zila Morales de Vega 11. José M. Otero Adorno 12. Antonio Pacheco 13. Juan Padilla 14. Consorcia Rodríguez 15. José A. Rodríguez 16. Antonio Rodríguez Morales 17. Carmelo Calderón Molina

Israeli citizens:

1. Yoshua Berkowitz 2. Zvi Gutman 3. Aharon Katzir, prominent scientist and brother of then future Israeli president Ephraim Katzir 4. Orania Luba 5. Aviva Oslander 6. Henia Ratner 7. Shprinza Ringel 8. Adam Tzamir

The Canadian citizen:

1. Lonna Sabah.

In March of 2011,  Riad al Malki, the Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority  stated at the time of the Itamar Massacre:

The killing of an infant and the slaughtering of people ... was never carried out by any Palestinians for national motives or revenge.

Ami Isseroff

March 21, 2011

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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