What happened at the Lod Airport in 1972?
On May 30, 1972, a three-man hit squad from the Japanese Red Army arrived at the Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, via 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 ofPalestine (PFLP-GC).
As the three men passed the ticket counter area, they suddenly pulled automatic weapons from their cases and began to spray 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 ona grenade and detonating it against his body. The third terrorist, Kozo Okamoto, was captured while attempting to flee from the terminal.
Twenty-six people were killed in the massacre and 78 were injured. Sixteen of the dead were not even Israelis or Jews, they were Puerto Ricans in Israel on a pilgrimage. Okamoto is the younger brother of Takedia Okamoto, one of the JRA terrorists who hijacked a Japan Airlines flight to North Korea in 1970. As the sole survivor of the Lod assassin team, Okamoto was sentenced to life imprisonment in Israel. He was released, however, as part of a 1983 prisoner exchange with Palestinian militant factions. He reportedly dropped from sight in Beirut, supposedly to reunite with his former comrades in the JRA.
After his capture, Okamoto addressed accusations 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.
Investigations have shown that 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. JRA was founded by Fusako Shigenobu, a Japanese woman who traveled to Lebanon in 1971 and founded the JRA, which then linked up with Palestinian extremists to become an implacable foe of Israel. She was best known for having masterminded the Lod Airport massacre. After the incident she made the following statement:
- It is time to show theimperialists that armed struggle is the only humanistic way to advance the cause of oppressed people.
In November 2000, Shigenobu was arrested in Osaka after being wanted by international law enforcement agencies for 26 years.