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1978: Two dead after El Al crew ambushed

Two people have died and nine have been injured during an attack on a bus carrying Israelis in central London.

The bus was taking staff of Israeli airline El Al on a stopover in London to the Europa Hotel in Mayfair when it was fired on.

An air hostess and a man, believed to be one of the attackers, died.

The ambush happened at just after 1330 BST when the coach pulled up at the hotel which is close to the US embassy in Grosvenor Square.

As El Al staff got out of the coach two men appeared and opened fire with sub-machine guns and threw hand grenades.

Passers-by were also caught up in the violence.


" the man produced a machine gun from his shoulder bag and started firing "

Richard Oldridge, eye-witness

A taxi driver was blown from his cab by a grenade explosion and pedestrians received gun shot wounds.

Eye-witness Richard Oldridge saw the attack.

"Suddenly a man appeared and ran alongside the coach.

"Somebody closed the coach doors and the man produced a machine gun from his shoulder bag and started firing," he said.

At that point he had dived inside a nearby pub for cover, Mr Oldridge added.

Another witness, hotel guest Johann du Pleiss, described the scene after the shooting stopped.

He said there were three people lying on the pavement, one of whom he assumed to be a terrorist.

"His gun was lying next to him. It seemed he had been killed by a hand grenade or bomb he was carrying," Mr du Pleiss said.

The coach was riddled with bullet holes as were nearby buildings.

A man, said to be of Middle Eastern appearance, was pursued and captured by police immediately after the attack.

He is currently being interviewed by officers.

The Israeli authorities have said Britain must share some of the blame for the incident.

Government spokesman Meir Amit said: "The British police are generally known for their efficiency but recently they have been standing helplessly by."

In Context
The dead stewardess was named as Irit Gidron, 29, from Haifa.

Police escorts for El Al staff were increased after the attack.

However, the Israeli authorities complained to Britain about its continued refusal to let El Al security guards carry guns.

Israel launched retaliatory attacks on Palestinian targets which were condemned by both Britain and the United States.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) later said it had carried out the London attack.

The PFLP was set up in 1967 in the aftermath of Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

In October 2001 the group said it was behind the killing of an Israel cabinet minister and a suicide bombing near a kibbutz.

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