Sabena Flight 571 : サベナ航空572便ハイジャック事件

Sabena Flight 571 was a scheduled passenger flight from Brussels to Lod via Vienna operated by the Belgian national airline, Sabena. On 8 May 1972 a Boeing 707 passenger aircraft operating that service, captained by British pilot Reginald Levy, DFC, was hijacked by four members of the Black September Organization, a Palestinian terrorist group. Following their instructions, Captain Levy landed the plane at Lod Airport (later Ben Gurion International Airport).

The attack, planned by Ali Hassan Salameh, was carried out by a group of two men and two women who pretended to be two couples: the group’s leader Ali Taha Abu Snina, plus Abed al-Aziz Atrash, Rima Tannous and Theresa Halsa. They were armed with two handguns, two hand grenades and two belts of explosives. Twenty minutes out of Vienna, the hijackers entered the cockpit. “As you can see,” Captain Levy told the 90 passengers, “we have friends aboard.” He concealed from the hijackers that his wife was a passenger on the plane.


Soon after taking command, the hijackers separated the Jewish hostages from the others and sent them to the back of the aircraft. When the plane had landed, the hijackers demanded the release of 315 convicted Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel, and threatened to blow up the airplane with its passengers. Captain Levy managed to send the Israelis a coded message requesting help. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Transport Minister Shimon Peres, who would become Prime Minister and later President of Israel, conducted negotiations with the hijackers while preparing a rescue operation, code-named “Operation Isotope.” Captain Levy said he talked to the hijackers about everything “from navigation to sex” while the passengers and crew waited to be rescued.

On 9 May 1972 at 4:00 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 aircraft disguised as aircraft technicians in white coveralls. Having immobilized it during the preceding night, they convinced the hijackers that its hydraulic system needed repair. (There was an unexpected last minute bathroom-break delay for one of the team members.) They then stormed the aircraft, killing both male hijackers within two minutes. They also captured the two women hijackers and rescued all 90 remaining passengers. Three passengers were wounded in the exchange of fire, one of whom, 22-year-old Miriam Anderson, later died of her injuries. Netanyahu was also wounded during the rescue when another commando, Marko Ashkenazi, accidentally discharged his gun as he used it to hit Theresa Halsa. The bullet passed through her and penetrated Netanyahu’s bicep.


Halsa and Rima Tannous were eventually sentenced to life imprisonment—Halsa for 220 years. They were freed in November 1983, in a prisoner exchange after the 1982 Lebanon War.

Sabena continued to operate the aircraft for another five years, until it was purchased by Israel Aircraft Industries. It was eventually sold to the Israeli Air Force, and served as a spy plane for many years, participating in most of the Air Force’s long-range operations.

Captain Levy, a Royal Air Force veteran who took part in strategic bombing missions over Germany during World War II and also in the Berlin airlift, had joined Sabena in 1952. He retired in 1982 and died of a heart attack, at a hospital near his home in Dover on 1 August 2010. The hijacking took place on his 50th birthday.

In media

  • From Night Flak to Hijack: It’s A Small World, autobiography by Captain Reginald Levy DFC.
  • Sabena Hijacking: My Version, Israeli docudrama depicting the hijacking and rescue, in which 3 Prime Ministers of Israel were involved.





翌9日の午後4時、後にイスラエルの首相を務めるエフード・バラック率いるイスラエル国防軍の特殊部隊サイェレット・マトカル(Sayeret Matkal)の精鋭16名からなるチームが、救出作戦を開始した(サイェレット・マトカルはイスラエル特殊部隊の中でもさらに選りすぐった部隊で、対テロ制圧や急襲に特化し、後にエンテベ空港奇襲作戦も成功させることになる)。制圧チームは全員が航空整備士を偽装し白い作業着を着用し、犯人側を欺いて行動。制圧劇は10分で終了し、犯人の内、2人は射殺され、残る2人も逮捕された。乗客3人が機内での銃撃戦で負傷、そのうち1人はその後、亡くなった。なお、「世界の救出作戦 (文庫版新戦史シリーズ 土井 寛著」によると、救出作戦の成功はレヴィ機長の献策によるところが大きく、機長の冷静な対応が惨事を防いだと評された。




Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.