November 23, 1985: EgyptAir Flight 648 is hijacked en route from Athens to Cairo. Three Palestinians from the Abu Nidel Organization calling themselves the Egypt Revolution took control of the plane ten minutes after take off. They were armed with guns and grenades. The plan was to head for Libya but that did not work out. Instead, the tiny island nation of Malta was chosen as a landing site.Maltarefused permission to land. However, the plane was low on fuel, was having problems with pressurization, and there were already wounded passengers on board. The hijackers forced the pilot to land.
Prime Minister Dr. Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici went immediately to the airport to handle negotiations. He refused to refuel the plane or withdraw armed forces from the area. Initially, 11 wounded passengers and two wounded crew were released. Omar Rezaq, the man in charge of the hijacking, began shooting passengers. He stated he would shoot one every fifteen minutes. He began with two Israelis and then shot another three Americans. Only two of them died.
The crisis dragged on for days. The Maltese government refused offers of help from all outside forces. The US Naval station was only 20 minutes away and the Egyptians had a US Delta Force trained group ready to assist. Negotiations continued and a plan was formed. Liberation forces were to disguise themselves as the caterers bringing food to the plane on November 25. Instead, 1.5 hours early, Egyptian forces stormed the plane.
It is unknown if it was the smoke from the Egyptians attacking the outside of the plane or hand grenades thrown by the hijackers inside the plane, but 56 of the remaining 88 passengers, two crew members, and one terrorist were killed in the raid. Omar Rezaq survived but was injured. He was arrested at the hospital. He was found guilty in Malta and given a 25 year sentence, of which he served 8 years. He assumed a new identity but was found in Nigeria and arrested there by the FBI. He was brought to the US where he was again found guilty and put back in prison, where he remains.
“The world is divided into two classes, those who believe the incredible, and those who do the improbable.” – Oscar Wilde
“I would rather lose in a cause that I know some day will triumph than to triumph in a cause that I know some day will fail.” – Wendell L. Wilkie
“Trying is the first step toward failure.” – Homer Simpson
“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” – Beverly Sills