Week In History: November 23rd – November 29th

EgyptAir Flight 648 en route to Cairo from Athens was hijacked in 1985 by Palestinian terror group Abu Nidal

Key events that shaped our social, political and cultural history

By Arfa Shahid 

November 23, 1985: Terrorist Group Abu Nidal Hijacks EgyptAir Jet in Malta; 60 Killed 

Three Palestinian members of the terrorist group Abu Nidal, an offshoot of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization, hijacked EgyptAir Flight 648 enroute Cairo from Athens. The terrorists, calling themselves Egypt Revolution, were reportedly heavily armed with guns and grenades. An Egyptian security service agent on board opened fire, killing one terrorist before being wounded along with two flight attendants. The aircraft was forced to descend after its fuselage was punctured in the exchange of fire, causing rapid depressurization. Libya was the original destination for the hijackers, but due to a lack of sufficient fuel, Malta was chosen as a more viable option. However, Maltese authorities refused to give permission for the aircraft to land. Without warning, Egyptian commandos attacked the passenger doors and luggage compartment doors with explosives, killing 54. Only one hijacker, Omar Rezaq, survived. He managed to escape undetected by the Maltese authorities after disguising himself as a passenger. He was later tracked down by Egyptian commandos and arrested. A total of 58 passengers out of the 95, including crew members, died in the incident.


November 29, 1947: 
U.N. Votes for Partition of Palestine

The U.N. Partition Plan for Palestine was adopted by the organization as Resolution 181 (II), to end the British Mandate imposed by the League of Nations (a previous branch of the U.N.) in 1923. It suggested the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states, and a delineation of the boundaries between the two states and Jerusalem to address competing claims of Palestinian nationalism and Jewish nationalism. The plan further called for an economic union between the proposed states, for the protection of religious and minority rights, the termination of the British Mandate and the subsequent withdrawal of British armed forces. The plan was heavily criticized by Arab countries, who warned the Western powers that its endorsement might be met with an oil embargo. Arab leaders and governments, indicating an unwillingness to accept any form of territorial divide, argued that the plan violated the principles of self-determination as laid out in the U.N. Charter. On November 29, 1947, the U.N. General Assembly voted in favor of the modified Partition Plan. However, it failed to be implemented following the outbreak of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War with the invasion of, or intervention in, Palestine by the Arab States on 15 May 1948.

November 25, 1986: Iran-Contra Connection Revealed

On this day in history, Attorney General Edwin Meese revealed the Iran-Contra connection, in what became one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. On November 3, Lebanese magazine Ash Shiraa reported that the U.S. had been involved in a secret arms’ deal with Iran to secure the release of seven American hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon. The revelation was confirmed by U.S. sources three days later. The deal violated the U.S. arms embargo against Iran and contradicted American President Ronald Reagan’s vow never to negotiate with terrorists. On November 25, controversy over the administration’s secret dealings with Iran deepened dramatically when Attorney General Meese announced that the arms sales proceeds were diverted to fund Nicaragua’s Contras, a group of rebels waging a guerrilla war against the elected leftist government of Nicaragua. The Contra connection caused outrage in Congress, which in 1982 had passed a law prohibiting the use of federal money “for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Nicaragua.” Reagan accepted responsibility for the arms-for-hostages deal but denied any knowledge of the diversion of funds to the Contras.

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