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Lod Airport massacre

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Lod Airport massacre
The attack site is located in Central Israel
The attack site
The attack site
LocationLod Airport outside Tel Aviv, Israel
Coordinates31°59′42.4″N 34°53′38.65″E / 31.995111°N 34.8940694°E / 31.995111; 34.8940694
DateMay 30, 1972
12:04 – 12:28
Attack type
Shooting spree
Weaponsassault rifles and grenades
Deaths26 (+ 2 attackers)
Injured79 (+ 1 attacker)
PerpetratorsThree members of the Japanese Red Army (guided by PFLP-EO)

The Lod Airport massacre[1][2] was a terrorist attack that occurred on May 30, 1972, in which three members of the Japanese Red Army recruited by the Palestinian group called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-External Operations (PFLP-EO),[2][3] attacked Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion International Airport) near Tel Aviv, killing 26 people and injuring 80 others.[4] Two of the attackers were killed, while a third, Kōzō Okamoto, was captured after being wounded.

The dead comprised 17 Christian pilgrims from Puerto Rico, a Canadian citizen, and eight Israelis, including Professor Aharon Katzir, an internationally renowned protein biophysicist. Katzir was head of the Israeli National Academy of Sciences and a popular scientific radio show host; he was also a candidate in the upcoming Israeli presidency election. His brother, Ephraim Katzir, was elected President of Israel the following year.

Because airport security was focused on the possibility of a Palestinian attack, the use of Japanese attackers took the guards by surprise. The attack has often been described as a suicide mission, but it has also been asserted that it was the outcome of an unpublicized larger operation that went awry. The three perpetrators—Kōzō Okamoto, Tsuyoshi Okudaira, and Yasuyuki Yasuda—had been trained in Baalbek, Lebanon; the actual planning was handled by Wadie Haddad (a.k.a. Abu Hani), head of PFLP External Operations, with some input from Okamoto.[5] In the immediate aftermath, Der Spiegel speculated that funding had been provided by some of the $5 million ransom paid by the West German government in exchange for the hostages of hijacked Lufthansa Flight 649 in February 1972.[6]


At 10 p.m. the attackers arrived at the airport aboard an Air France flight from Rome.[7] Dressed conservatively and carrying slim violin cases, they attracted little attention. As they entered the waiting area, they opened up their violin cases and extracted Czech vz. 58 assault rifles with the butt stocks removed. They began to fire indiscriminately at airport staff and visitors, which included a group of pilgrims from Puerto Rico, and tossed grenades as they changed magazines. Yasuda was accidentally shot dead by one of the other attackers, and Okudaira moved from the airport building into the landing area, firing at passengers disembarking from an El Al aircraft before being killed by one of his own grenades, either due to accidental premature explosion or as a suicide. Okamoto was shot by security, brought to the ground by an El Al employee, and arrested as he attempted to leave the terminal.[8][9] Whether the attackers were responsible for killing all of the victims has been disputed, as some victims may have been caught in the crossfire of the attackers and airport security.[5]


A total of 26 people were killed during the attack:[10]

US citizens from Puerto Rico

  • Reverend Angel Berganzo
  • Carmelo Calderón Molina
  • Carmela Cintrón
  • Carmen E. Crespo
  • Vírgen Flores
  • Esther González
  • Blanca González de Pérez
  • Carmen Guzmán
  • Eugenia López
  • Enrique Martínez Rivera
  • Vasthy Zila Morales de Vega
  • José M. Otero Adorno
  • Antonio Pacheco
  • Juan Padilla
  • Antonio Rodríguez Morales
  • Consorcia Rodríguez
  • José A. Rodríguez

Israeli citizens

  • Yoshua Berkowitz
  • Zvi Gutman
  • Aharon Katzir
  • Orania Luba
  • Aviva Oslander
  • Henia Ratner
  • Shprinza Ringel
  • Adam Tzamir

Canadian citizen

  • Lonna Sabah


The Japanese public initially reacted with disbelief to initial reports that the perpetrators of the massacre were Japanese until a Japanese embassy official sent to the hospital confirmed that Okamoto was a Japanese national. Okamoto told the diplomat that he had nothing personal against the Israeli people, but that he had to do what he did because "It was my duty as a soldier of the revolution." Okamoto was tried by an Israeli military tribunal and sentenced to life imprisonment in June 1972. During his trial, he actively undermined his own defense, and in particular protested his lawyer's requests for a psychiatric evaluation, but managed to avoid the death penalty by pleading guilty.[8] Okamoto served only 13 years of his prison sentence. He was released in 1985 with more than 1,000 other prisoners in an exchange for captured Israeli soldiers.[11] He settled in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. He was arrested in 1997 for passport forgery and visa violations, but in 2000 was granted political refugee status in Lebanon. He is still wanted by the Japanese government.[12] Four other JRA members arrested at the same time were extradited to Japan.[13]

Wadie Haddad, the primary organizer of the attack, was assassinated by Mossad in early 1978.[14][15]

In June 2006, Senate Project (PS) 1535, a legislative initiative by Puerto Rico Senator José Garriga Picó, was approved by unanimous vote of both houses of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, making every 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.[16] The purpose of Lod Massacre Remembrance Day is to commemorate those events, to honor both those murdered and those who survived, and to educate the Puerto Rican public against terrorism. On May 30, 2007, the 35th anniversary of the massacre, the event was officially memorialized in Puerto Rico.

North Korea trial

In 2008, the eight surviving children of Carmelo Calderón Molina, who was killed in the attack, and Pablo Tirado, the son of Pablo Tirado Ayala, who was wounded, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. They sued the government of North Korea for providing material support to the PFLP-EO and the JRA and for planning the attack. The plaintiffs claimed a right to sue the North Korean government based on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. Preliminary hearings to examine evidence began on December 2, 2009, with district judge Francisco Besosa presiding. The North Korean government did not respond to the lawsuit and had no representatives present. The victims' families were represented by attorneys from the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, including its founder, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.[17]

In July 2010, the U.S. court ordered North Korea to pay US$378 million to families as compensation for the terror attack.[18]

See also


  1. ^
    • "The short-term impact of the Lod Airport massacre as a precursor to Munich..." Stephen Sloan, John C. Bersia, J. B. Hill. Terrorism: The Present Threat in Context, Berg Publisher, 2006, p. 50. ISBN 1-84520-344-5
    • "Two years later, just before the Lod Airport massacre, authorities uncovered the bodies of 14 young men and women on remote Mount Haruna, 70 miles northwest of Tokyo." "Again the Red Army", TIME, August 18, 1975.
    • "Those named by Lebanese officials as having been arrested included at least three Red Army members who have been wanted for years by Japanese authorities, most notably Kōzō Okamoto, 49, the only member of the attacking group who survived the Lod Airport massacre." "Lebanon Seizes Japanese Radicals Sought in Terror Attacks", The New York Times, February 19, 1997.
  2. ^ a b "They were responsible for the Lod Airport massacre in Israel in 1972, which was committed on behalf of the PFLP." Jeffrey D. Simon, The Terrorist Trap: America's Experience with Terrorism, Indiana University Press, p. 324. ISBN 0-253-21477-7
  3. ^ "This Week in History:". July 24, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2012. The assailants, members of communist group the Japanese Red Army (JRA), were enlisted by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP),
  4. ^ "In what became known as the Lod Airport Massacre, three members of the terrorist group, Japanese Red Army, arrived at the airport aboard Air France Flight 132 from Rome. Once inside the airport they grabbed automatic firearms from their carry-on cases and fired at airport staff and visitors. In the end, 26 people died and 80 people were injured." CBC News, The Fifth Estate, "Fasten Your Seatbelts: Ben Gurion Airport in Israel", 2007. Retrieved June 2, 2008.
  5. ^ a b Marx, W David. "Interview: Dr. Patricia Steinhoff 4". Neojaponisme. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  6. ^ "Weißer Kreis". Der Spiegel (in German): 82–85. June 5, 1972. Archived from the original on March 21, 2014. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Schreiber, Mark (1996). Shocking Crimes of Postwar Japan. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 4-900737-34-8.
  9. ^ Burleigh, M (2009) Blood & Rage, a cultural history of terrorism, Harper Perennial P161
  10. ^ "Senado conmemora el 42 aniversario de la Masacre de Lod en Israel". Diario de Puerto Rico (in Spanish). May 31, 2014. Archived from the original on December 27, 2014. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
  11. ^ The Terrorist Attack on Lod Airport: 40 Years After Archived December 27, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Press Conference The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan March 21, 2000
  13. ^ "Red Army guerrillas arrested". BBC Online. March 18, 2000. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  14. ^ "Israel used chocs to poison Palestinian – Breaking News – World – Breaking News". www.smh.com.au.
  15. ^ http://www.swr.de/presseservice/archiv/2010/-/id=5749182/nid=5749182/did=6605332/1e8ty7a/index.html[permanent dead link][dead link]
  16. ^ Law 144 August 2, 2006 M
  17. ^ Marrero, Rosita (December 3, 2009). "Juicio civil contra Corea del Norte por boricuas muertos en atentado de 1972" (in Spanish). Primera Hora. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  18. ^ US court fines N. Korea over 1972 Israel terror attack, YNet 07.21.10

External links